Kanye West is having lunch with President Trump today and they plan to discuss "manufacturing resurgence in America, prison reform, how to prevent gang violence and what can be done to reduce violence in Chicago," according to a White House statement. Kim Kardashian West, his wife, has also previously met with Trump to talk about prison and criminal justice reform. Their particular area of interest has been in arguing for clemency for prisoners being held on non-violent drug charges.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world at 655 inmates per every 100,000 population. To put this into perspective, Cuba (a Communist dictatorship) is number 6 on the list, the Russian Federation is number 16, and Saudi Arabia is number 72.
Looking at just U.S. federal inmate statistics:
93% are male
58% are white, 38% are black - but note that the percentage of the overall population that is white is 64% and black is 13%
46% of the offenses for which inmates are jailed are drug-related. The next highest is "weapons, explosives, arson" at 18%. Homicide, violent crimes and robbery, and sex crimes all together make up 17% of offenses.
The point that Kanye and Kim West are trying to make in their efforts is that the tough sentences on drug-related crimes drive the higher incarceration rate, particularly for black citizens. In addition, it can be very hard for convicted criminals to re-enter society (e.g. getting a good job, redeeming their reputation, etc...) so a conviction can very easily condemn someone to a life of crime or of incarceration.
The fact that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world is probably a clue that something is not right about how our criminal justice system operates, particularly since nearly half of inmates are in prison on drug charges. Good for Kanye and Kim in highlighting this issue and seeking meaningful reform.
(Image: Inmate showers in Old Central Prison (State Prison), Raleigh, NC, in cell block, no date (c.1950-1960s), by State Archives of North Carolina - https://www.flickr.com/photos/north-carolina-state-archives/28891475665/, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54992631 )