After living behind bars for two decades, Alice Marie Johnson expected to continue to serve out her life sentence for a nonviolent offense in an Alabama federal prison. But, according to an article she wrote for USA Today, she was granted clemency by President Trump and is now a free woman.
“I’ll tell my story, but I’ll also talk about the mercy that’s needed for others throughout the criminal justice system,” she wrote.
In 1970, Alice, age 15, married a boy of 17. They had five children during the course of their marriage. Twenty years later, she was single and had lost a manager position she held at FedEx.
When she ran out of money, she sought employment and found it with what she thought was a phone service that relayed messages. What she didn’t know was that she was facilitating contacts with drug dealers. This service led to her arrest in 1996. The drug affiliates that she coordinated for testified in court against Johnson, some to avoid prosecution themselves, according the column. In 1996, she was sentenced to life in prison on drug con- spiracy charges.
Johnson was then transferred from her home state of Tennessee to a Federal Prison in California.
She remained at this facility where she was isolated from family. Then, she was transferred to a facility in Texas, where she was finally able to see her children again when the youngest was 17 years old.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the United States has one of the highest per capita incarceration rates.
PPI reports one in five are arrested for drug offenses.
“My federal sentence without the possibility of parole made me one of those statistics, and I will be the first to say that I am not proud of what I did,” said Johnson.
While in prison, Johnson found her faith and built a relationship with God. She became an ordained minister and wrote faith-based plays.
Johnson initially shared her story through a video aired on Mic.com, a news site. This action changed her life.
A reality star named Kim Kardashian West saw her story and tweeted about it. Johnson had no idea who the reality star was, as she had been in prison since the 1990’s.
The prison staff also aided Johnson by writing letters on her behalf describing her positive programming while incarcerated, according to the USA Today article.
Johnson knows there are many women who are capable of becoming productive, law abiding citizens if given a chance. “National campaigns are helping Americans realize there is a face and story behind every statistic,” she wrote, noting that some businesses are “banning the box,” a question that asks whether you have been incarcerated. Also, some organizations are removing questions about criminal records from job applications. Johnson hopes others held behind prison walls will also get a second chance. She ac- knowledges her gratitude to President Trump for granting her clemency after 21 years in prison. She also acknowledges Kardashian West, Mark Holden of Koch Industries, Brittany Barnette, co-founder of Buried Alive, and she thanks Jared Kushner.
Johnson ends her piece with this, “My life was saved by many fighting for justice reform. I want to save the lives of other prisoners who are nonviolent but still incarcerated.”