On June 6, 2018, President Trump commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother who was convicted in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent drug offense. Here are five things you should know about Alice Johnson, a woman whose recent release could indicate changes ahead for prison reform.
Prior to her conviction, she was a hard-working mother of five.
In the 1980s, she was married, had a steady job as a manager at FedEx, and was busy raising her five children. In 1989, things took a turn. She and her husband of nearly 20 years divorced. She was let go from her job at FedEx. Then the unthinkable happened- her youngest son was killed in a motorcycle accident.
She became involved in a Memphis cocaine trafficking organization to make ends meet.
After losing her job due to a gambling problem, Johnson was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1991. Shortly after, she lost her home to foreclosure. To provide for her family, she began communicating messages between drug dealers and distributors. She was arrested in 1993 and charged with drug conspiracy and money laundering.
Johnson was convicted in 1996 at the age of 41 and sentenced to life in prison.
On October 31, 1996, Johnson was convicted of eight federal counts in relation to her involvement in a drug trafficking organization. The court case drew statewide attention, with one paper in Memphis labeling her as the head of a multi-million dollar cocaine ring. Out of over a dozen individuals charged with crimes in connection with the drug operation, Johnson received the longest sentence.
During her time in prison, Johnson became a grandmother and great-grandmother.
Johnson served 21 years of her prison sentence, during which she became a grandmother to 6 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. Her daughter, Tretessa Johnson, started a petition for her mother and was instrumental in her release from prison.
Johnson thanked President Trump upon her release.
After her release from prison, Johnson was seen on video thanking several of her supporters, including President Trump. She also praised Kim Kardashian and Jared Kushner, who both worked on getting her released.
During her time in prison, Johnson was a model prisoner who became an ordained minister and acted as a mentor to her fellow inmates. While her daughter asked President Obama to grant Johnson clemency, it was ultimately President Trump who commuted her sentence. Johnson’s release signals hope for prison reform, especially concerning non-violent drug related charges.