US VP Harris hosts Kim Kardashian to discuss criminal justice reform

By Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris hosted reality-television star Kim Kardashian at the White House on Thursday to discuss criminal justice reform, after the Biden administration granted clemency to people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden granted clemency to 16 people, pardoning 11 of them and commuting the sentences of the other five. Four of the recipients joined Thursday's event.

Harris is focused on convincing people of color and young voters to give Biden and her a second, four-year term at a time many voters are dissatisfied with their handling of the economy, persistent inflation and the war in Gaza.

The United States imprisons more people than any other country. Some one in five of those 1.9 million people are behind bars for a drug-related offense. Black and Latino people are disproportionately incarcerated, and drug law reform has the broadest support among young voters. Black, Latino and young voters tend to favor Democrats.

"Everybody makes mistakes, and for some that might rise to the level of being a crime," Harris said at the White House. "But is it not the sign of a civil society that we allow people a way to earn their way back and give them the support and the resources they need to do that?"

Harris, a former prosecutor, planned to announce the finalization of a Small Business Administration rule that will remove most restrictions on loan eligibility based on a person's criminal record, White House officials said.

Kardashian, who is also an entrepreneur, first became a vocal activist for criminal justice reform during former President Donald Trump's administration. Harris praised her work.

"Every time I've gone and visited a prison, I've met some of the smartest individuals with the brightest ideas, and to see the changes that are happening to make their re-entry easier, I think is going to be life changing," said Kardashian.

Since taking office, Biden has commuted the sentences of 122 individuals and granted pardons to 20 individuals who committed non-violent drug offenses, the White House said. In December, Biden granted categorical pardons to thousands convicted of use and simple possession of marijuana in Washington and on federal lands.

Last month, Harris convened a roundtable with people pardoned for marijuana offenses with rapper Fat Joe.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmons and Deepa Babington)