Former Memphis resident Alice Marie Johnson said she was “overwhelmed” by President Donald Trump granting her a full pardon.
“It was a great burden lifted off my shoulders,” said Johnson during an interview via email with The New Tri-State Defender about the pardon granted on Aug. 28.
“It reminded me that we have a lot of work to do for people who have paid their debt to society. Many people who have served their time are not fully free.
“This is why we need to do more work on probation and parole reform, restoring voting rights for non-violent offenders and removing the stigma that obstructs many returning citizens from adequate work and training opportunities,” Johnson said.
A full pardon absolves the person of the conviction and all of the crime’s consequences.
Trump announced the pardon less than 24 hours after Johnson’s speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
In her speech, Johnson talked about how Trump commuted her life sentence after she served 21 years in prison for a nonviolent drug conviction.
“It was a great honor to have such a large stage to speak about my story and mission – fighting for criminal justice reform and for the brothers and sisters I left behind in prison.
“I hope that my story inspires people to have compassion for those behind bars and to urge our political leaders to provide more chances at redemption, like President Trump gave to me.”
Johnson was convicted on federal charges of attempted drug possession in 1996 and received a mandatory sentence of life, plus 25 years sentence for involvement in a drug conspiracy.
During her incarceration, Johnson created plays, taught classes, became a hospice volunteer and became a mentor and ordained minister.
As a result of reality television star Kim Kardashian West advocating for her cause, Trump commuted Johnson’s sentence on June 6, 2018, ending her 21-year stint in prison.
After her release, Johnson was placed on probation for five years and filed documents in federal court to have her probation ended in 2019. U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Michael Dunavant denied Johnson’s probation request and referred to her as a “kingpin” of the drug organization in which she was involved.
Johnson now lives in Arizona and spends quality time with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She also has dedicated her life to fighting for criminal justice reform and fulfilling the promise she made to fight for the men and women she left behind.
In May 2019, Johnson released her memoir “After Life: My Journey from Incarceration to Freedom,” saying her faith helped her hold on to hope while she was behind bars.
Johnson recently launched a new foundation called Taking Action for Good. The idea is to scale up her existing efforts and build bipartisan coalitions to fight for greater criminal justice reform, mercy in the form of clemency and pardons, and provide the highest-level re-entry support services for returning citizens.
“I have dedicated my life to fighting for the forgotten men and women in our prison system,” said Johnson.
(For more information about Johnson’s foundation Taking Action for Good, visit www.takingactionforgood.org. Follow Alice Marie Johnson on Twitter and Instagram @AliceMarieFree.)