Alice Johnson, who had her sentence commuted by President Donald Trump after serving more than 20 years for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, shared her story in an uplifting speech about criminal justice reform on the final night of the Republican National Convention Thursday.
“I was once told that the only way I would ever be reunited with my family would be as a corpse,” Johnson said at the start of her remarks. “But by the grace of God and the compassion of President Donald John Trump, I stand before you tonight, and I assure you, I’m not a ghost! I am alive, I am well, and most importantly, I am free.”
Trump granted clemency to Johnson in June 2018 after speaking with Kim Kardashian West, who lobbied the president to pardon the now 65-year-old grandmother after becoming aware of her case through a Mic video that showed up on her Twitter timeline in 2017.
Johnson was sentenced to life in prison in 1997 for her involvement in a drug trafficking ring based out of Memphis. She had no prior offenses and was dealing with tragedies, like her son dying, before she turned to crime.
“Some say, ‘You do the crime. You do the time.’ However, that time should be fair and just,” she said. “We’ve all made mistakes, and none of us want to be defined forever based on our worst decision.”
By the time she was released, Johnson had served almost 22 years behind bars. During her time in prison, Johnson became a playwright, an ordained minister, and a certified hospice volunteer and acted as a mentor to her fellow inmates.
“My transformation was described as 'extraordinary.' Truth is there are thousands of people just like me, who deserve the opportunity to come home,” she said.
Since her release, Johnson has become an advocate for criminal justice reform. In 2019, she joined Trump at the White House for a celebration of the First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice bill that expanded early release programs and loosened mandatory minimum sentences, including those for nonviolent drug offenders.
"It was REAL justice reform. And it brought joy, hope, and freedom to thousands of well-deserving people," Johnson said. "I hollered, 'Hallelujah!' My faith in justice and mercy was rewarded."
"The nearly 22 years I spent in prison were not wasted," she said. "God had a purpose and plan for my life. I was not delayed or denied; I was destined for such a time as this!"