Alice Marie Johnson — a nonviolent offender who was granted clemency by President Donald Trump in 2018 after serving 21 years in prison — expressed her gratitude to the president for giving her “a second chance” in a moving speech Thursday night at the Republican National Convention.
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“I was once told that the only way I would ever be reunited with my family would be as a corpse,” Johnson began after introducing herself. “But by the grace of God, and the compassion of President Donald John Trump, I stand before you — and I assure you, I am not a ghost.”
She continued, “I am alive, I am well, and most importantly, I am free.”
Johnson went on to express how she felt after being released from her life sentence after it was commuted by President Trump, when she was able to hug her grandchildren for the first time. But she said her time in prison was not wasted, pointing to her “extraordinary” transformation and faith in God’s plan for her life.
“When President Trump heard about me — about the injustice of my story — he saw me as a person,” Johnson said. “He had compassion, and he acted.
“Free in body thanks to President Trump, but free in mind thanks to the Almighty God,” she told the audience. “I couldn’t believe it. I always remembered that God knew my name even in my darkest hour, but I never thought a president would.”
Johnson’s story was brought to President Trump’s attention by reality star and criminal justice reform activist Kim Kardashian West, after President Barack Obama rejected Johnson’s request for clemency three times.
Six months after Johnson’s release, President Trump signed the bipartisan First Step Act. Fox News reported that the “law gives federal judges more leeway when sentencing some drug offenders and boosts prisoner rehabilitation efforts. It also reduces life sentences for some drug offenders with three convictions, or ‘three strikes,’ to 25 years.”
According to the New York Post, “Johnson would never have been sentenced to life in prison if not for a 1986 drug abuse act written by then-Sen. Joe Biden that stiffened penalties for drug offenses and disproportionately targeted black people.”
The outlet noted that Johnson “has previously recounted how she took to drug dealing as a way to provide for her children after losing her job and has described the move as ‘the worst decision of my life.'”
Fox News noted that she is now a criminal justice reform advocate and a senior fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Crime initiative.