A young mom is sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole for stabbing to death the step grandfather she says molested her. A 15-year-old sex trafficking victim is tried as an adult and given a minimum 21-year sentence because prosecutors say she was responsible for her pimp’s murder. These cases are just two compelling reasons to watch Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project, according to Erin Haney, the attorney mentoring the reality TV star as she studies to become a lawyer. Erin, 39, says that Keeping Up With the Kardashians fans will want to tune into the two-hour Oxygen documentary, even if they think they’re not interested in criminal justice reform.
“Oxygen did an incredible job of making these stories very compelling and yet also very accurate,” she tells HollywoodLife in an EXCLUSIVE interview. “Part of what you get when you watch something like this is they are riveting stories [that are] almost like a mystery. Because you’re starting with this headline and with this conviction that tells you that one thing happened. That there was a bad person, who did a bad thing, who is behind bars. That’s what justice would mean. The Justice Project and Kim do a phenomenal job of taking that apart, piece by piece, and really deconstructing it so that you can see, well wait a second, there is a lot more happening here.” Erin adds, “Maybe the solution here, in terms of giving these people years behind bars, is not actually what justice looks like in their situation. It really is a counter-narrative to the number of crime shows that we see, to the number of headlines that we read.”
In case you missed it, Kim, 39, has become a criminal justice campaigner, shining a light on people that she thinks have been unfairly incarcerated or slapped with overly harsh sentences. Her interest was sparked in 2018 when she read about the case of Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother given a life sentence for a first time non-violent drug offence. Kim’s work to highlight Miss Alice’s cause, led to her meeting Erin and her colleague, Jessica Jackson – two lawyers who have dedicated their careers to criminal justice reform. Erin is senior council for #Cut50, the bipartisan initiative to decrease mass incarceration that Jessica co-founded. Both are mentoring Kim, who – after successfully urging President Donald Trump to grant Miss Alice clemency – decided to study law to arm herself with the tools to help put criminal justice into action.
The documentary is just one aspect of this. During The Justice Project you see Kim sifting through piles of letters inmates have written her. They include one from Dawn Jackson (the mom who stabbed her step grandfather). “Kim gets, I would say, hundreds of thousands of letters from people in those dire circumstances,” Erin says. “Many of them have incredibly painful and heartbreaking stories; really justifiable, meritable claims for relief.” For Erin that is partly the genius of the documentary special and why it’s a must-see. These cases, she says, “are reflective of an ongoing problem in our system and they offer some sort of hope for change.”
Ultimately, whether it’s because someone that we love has been caught up in the system or because our tax dollars are used to fund it, we should watch, Erin says, because “it affects us all.” Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project premieres on Oxygen on April 5 at 7pm.