Alice Johnson, who served more than 20 years for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, received a full pardon by President Trump in the Oval Office Friday, a day after she gave an uplifting speech about the need for criminal justice reform at the Republican National Convention.
"We're giving Alice a full pardon," Trump said after reporters were ushered into the Oval Office. "We are going to do it right now."
Trump spoke briefly about Johnson's life, telling reporters she had served 22 years of a life sentence for something that "a lot of people" don't go to jail for.
Johnson had turned to crime after her son died and, in 1997, received a life sentence for her role with a drug trafficking ring in Memphis. She had no prior criminal record.
She had appealed her case through the courts, but her only hope of being freed was presidential action.
At the RNC, Johnson spoke about the severity of sentences in courts.
"Some say, 'You do the crime. You do the time.' However, that time should be fair and just," she said at the convention. "We've all made mistakes, and none of us want to be defined forever based on our worst decision."
While Trump's commutation allowed Johnson to be freed from prison in 2018 and eliminated the remainder of her sentence, Trump's pardon clears the way for Johnson to live unimpeded by her prior conviction, such as regaining the ability to vote and run for office.
Trump said Johnson had done an "incredible job" since being released.
Johnson has become an advocate for criminal justice reform and has been advocating for the release of other inmates who have received severe sentences for low-level crimes.
She's also attended events at the White House for criminal justice reform, such as a celebration for the First Step Act, which expands early release programs and eases restrictions on minimum sentences for some drug offenses.