After serving 21 years of a life sentence, 63-year-old Alice Marie Johnson had her sentence commuted by President Trump. She was originally convicted for her involvement in a suspected cocaine trafficking operation in 1996.
For a first-time nonviolent offender, Johnson’s sentence might be considered harsh when compared with sentences for some violent criminals, who were given much less prison time.
Johnson’s case raises questions about prison reform in America. Her conviction under federal law made her ineligible parole. The federal system abolished parole during President Ronald Reagan’s “war on drugs” in 1987. The current opioid crisis might spur new legislation.
Although her newfound freedom warrants celebration, the grandmother has missed out on moments in life that she will never get back. In a May 2018 Mic article, she said, “I just had a great-grandson. I missed that. Both of my parents passed away. I was not able to be by either of their sides in their final days. That’s an ache that I can’t—that never goes away.”
At the time of her suspected involvement, Johnson admitted to being in a difficult place financially. She was recently divorced, fired from her job and grieving the loss of her son. Her decision to pursue fast cash cost her two decades of her life.
“While this administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance,” the White House said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
The commutation of Johnson’s sentence follows a string of other pardons made by President Trump. This commutation is his sixth pardon since taking office. Last month, he posthumously pardoned boxer Jack Johnson after “Rocky” actor Sylvester Stallone pleaded Johnson’s case.
Much like last month’s pardon, Johnson’s case was taken up by someone in the public eye. Last week, Trump and son-in-law turned senior adviser Jared Kushner met with celebrity Kim Kardashian West to discuss prison reform. Kardashian West personally advocated for Johnson’s clemency.