By Stacy M. Brown
“Let’s pause here to give a little credit where credit is due. Freeing 17 prisoners – all of whom were serving life sentences without parole – is impressive and commendable and the result of a campaign – 90 Days of Freedom – launched by Kardashian’s attorney, Brittany K. Barnett, a black woman,” Anne Branigin wrote for The Grapevine.
The Decarceration Collective’s MiAngel Cody, another black female lawyer, also collaborated on the project.
“If we wanted to go back even further, it’s worth knowing the viral Mic video on Alice Marie Johnson that moved Kardashian to act was facilitated by – you guessed it – a black woman, Topeka Sam,” Branigin said.
Kim Kardashian, who has deservedly made headlines for helping to win the freedom of as many as 17 mostly African American prisoners who were life without parole sentences, reportedly has signed a deal with Oxygen for a documentary tentatively titled, “Kim Kardashian: The Justice Project.”
The project focuses on the socialite’s recent foray into criminal justice reform.
Hopefully, it will also shine a light on the African American women lawyers, like Anne Barnett, Topika Sam and MiAngel Cody, who many argue deserve the lion’s share of the credit that’s gone almost exclusively to Kardashian.
The Decarceration Collective is led by African American female attorneys Cody and Bella Bahhs.
It counts as a premier collective of lawyers, community organizers, and criminal justice policy consultants working to dismantle a system that privileges prisons over people.
The organization provides federal criminal defense, strategic communications and public relations counsel and they serve individual, public and nonprofit clients throughout the United States.
“MiAngel Cody and I have been doing this work for free,” Barnett said in a statement.
“Ask any of our dozens of clients who are now free living their best lives. Both of us left six-figure salary jobs and wiped out our own savings accounts to fund our work,” she said.
“We attempted to get grants from these large foundations shelling out millions of dollars to other organizations but would not look our way because they so-called don’t fund “direct services.’
“Our hands were full picking locks to human cages, we didn’t have time to participate in glorified begging from the nonprofit industrial complex only to be turned down,” she said.
Barnett explained that Kardashian “linked arms with us to support us when foundations turned us down.”
“We and our clients and their families have a lot of love for [Kardashian] and are deeply grateful for her,” she said.
Barnett also isn’t blaming Kardashian for the media attention.
“Kim has always been very clear in her role. It’s the media that spins it around – not Kim. We do not care how the media is portraying it, that’s what the media does,” She said.
“Who cares? We need Kim’s support and the support of anyone else who wants to join this fight. We love that she is using her platform to raise awareness. We are not trying to be famous. We are trying to get our people free. Period,” Barnett said.
In 90 days, the African American attorneys freed 17 people from life without parole sentences – the second-most severe penalty permitted by law in America.
“Only two of us … Prosecutors opposed nearly every single case we had,” Barnett said.
“We litigated our asses off in federal courts across the country. We won downward departures in most of our cases due to good lawyering,” she said.
“People set to die in prison are now free. Our clients weren’t even on this selective list the Sentencing Commission sent out or on federal defenders’ radars.
“In fact, we have copies of letters federal defenders sent some of our clients telling them they weren’t even eligible for relief under the First Step Act – but we got them free.
“Our work in 90 days is historic. We picked some up from prison. We gave re-entry stipends. We continue to support them upon release.”
To support the work done by the Decarceration Collective, click here.
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