Kim Kardashian West on criminal justice reform: "I couldn't just sit back"

Kim Kardashian West is continuing her fight for criminal justice reform as the coronavirus hits prison populations across the country. Her fight started with Alice Marie Johnson, who she helped get released from prison in 2018 after she was sentenced to life for non-violent drug charges.

Now, she is taking on more cases, highlighted in her new documentary "Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project," which airs on Oxygen on Sunday, April 5 at 7 p.m. ET.  

"What I wanted to do with this documentary is take people along with my journey, how I started off with Alice, non-violent drug offender, to going into people that have done some really serious crimes," she told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King in an exclusive interview. "Realizing that their life doesn't have to be thrown away, that they do deserve a second chance."

Listen to this episode on ART19

Explaining why she got involved in Johnson's case, Kardashian West said it "found" her, recalling how she happened to see a video of Johnson sharing her story. 

"She said she was … someone that would answer the phone and connect people, but she didn't know quantity, who, where, what. She knew it was something in regards to drugs, but she was the phone mule," Kardashian West said. "She got a harsher sentence than Charles Manson did, and when I heard that, I thought, 'Okay. That does not add up.'"

Johnson also got a harsher sentence than the drug dealers who were involved in the case.

"That, to me, just blew my mind ... that started to unravel how our system works. It doesn't make sense to me," Kardashian West said. "And it's just not fair."

Asked what "fair" means to her in Johnson's case, Kardashian West said, "If she did something that was not following the law ... of course, she should do time, but what is that sentencing time?" 

"And so, for me, realizing that they lock up black and brown people five times more than white people, and I am raising mixed kids, to me, that becomes really personal," she said.

Kardashian West has visited prisons and met with inmates and their attorneys. 

"I just couldn't sit back and see Alice spend the rest of her life in prison," she said. "When I saw that she had a big family and her sisters and her grandkids, and it just reminded me of my family, and I thought, 'What if one of us made a decision that just changed our family for the rest of our lives?'"

"Once I really got to know Alice, and realizing that there are thousands more Alices, I couldn't just sit back and not try to make a difference and not try to change," Kardashian West said.

In the documentary, Kardashian West says people have to ask themselves if human beings are capable of transformation and second chances.

"I was very judgmental when I first started this process," she told King. "I didn't think I had the empathy to support and rally behind someone that had taken someone's life — when there was a violent crime involved — until I started to educate myself and until I started to go to prisons and meet with people that are incarcerated."

Kardashian West said her work on criminal justice reform has led to "a huge change" in her personal life. 

"Rarely do I go out," she said. "I have to be home. I mean, I have to be in the office studying for law school 18 hours a week. So, I really did make that commitment. If I have to study, everyone really does respect that."

Kardashian West said she knows her dad, Robert Kardashian, a famous attorney who died in 2003, "would be really proud" of what she is doing. 

"When I get exhausted and think I want to give up, I know that he's pushing me to not give up," she said.

Asked if she doesn't want people to think of her the way they might have seen her growing up on television, Kardashian West said, "I can honestly say that I don't care if someone views me as this way or that way or however. I just know what I'm doing and I'm focused on that."  

She added that she loves being a mom to her four children and "being a good example for them." Her children are 6 years old, 4 years old, 2 years old and just under 11 months old.

Asked how her family was navigating the current social distancing restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus, she said, "We're all at home. We've watched every single movie under the sun. We're doing drawing classes. Everything you can imagine to try to keep kids busy."

Kardashian West said she thought husband Kanye West would have "a harder time" staying at home because of how active he is. 

"But he really does love staying at home and watching movies and having my cooking and hanging out with the kids. I think this time, we're just taking advantage of it and trying to be positive. I've probably annoyed him organizing every last thing in the house," she said.

To anyone who is not social distancing, Kardashian West said, "I think that it's extremely irresponsible for anyone to not take this seriously. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can go and see our friends and family again."