Former Memphian granted clemency by Trump speaks at convention

By , Daily Memphian Updated: August 28, 2020 2:32 PM CT | Published: August 27, 2020 10:24 PM CT

Memphis native Alice Johnson extolled the compassion of President Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention Thursday night, Aug. 27, and touted his efforts for criminal justice reform.

“I was once told that the only way I would ever be reunited with my family was as a corpse,” Johnson, who now lives in Arizona, said during her presentation, one of the last of the evening before the president addressed the virtual convention.

Woman in Super Bowl ad for Trump seeks probation dismissal

“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.”

Johnson recounted her life story, how she was convicted of a non-violent drug offense and served more than two decades under antiquated and harsh federal drug laws before the president heard about her plight and granted clemency.

After hearing about her story from reality star Kim Kardashian, President Trump commuted her life sentence for cocaine trafficking conspiracy charges in 2018 after she spent 22 years in prison.

<strong>Alice Johnson</strong>

Alice Johnson

Johnson acknowledged regret Thursday night for the decisions that led to her incarceration. But she said the time she was to serve should have been “fair and just.” While in prison, she wrote plays, mentored inmates, volunteered with Hospice and became an ordained minister. In addition, she was honored as Special Olympics coordinator of the year for her work with disabled women.

“Because the only thing worse than unjustly imprisoning my body was trying to imprison my mind,” she said. “My transformation was described as extraordinary. Truth is, there are thousands of people just like me who deserve the opportunity to come home.”

After her release, she created an outreach program so others serving time can have hope for release. She is now a senior fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Crime initiative and a published author.

Alice Marie Johnson seeks probation dismissal

She noted she never stopped fighting for her freedom and said her Christian faith and prayers of others helped her keep hope alive. Once released, Johnson said she remembered the promise she made to other inmates to fight for their freedom.

“When President Trump heard about me and the injustice of my story, he saw me as a person. He had compassion, and he acted. Free in body, thanks to President Trump, but free in mind thanks to the almighty God,” she said.

Six months after he granted her clemency, Trump signed the First Step Act into law, a move she called “real justice reform.” Congress passed the bipartisan act to reform federal prisons and sentencing laws in an effort to cut recidivism and decrease the federal inmate population while keeping the public safe.

Despite spending more than two decades in prison, Johnson said the time wasn’t wasted.

“God had a purpose and a plan for my life,” she said. “I was destined for such a time as this.”

The RNC event wasn’t Johnson’s first appearance on behalf of Trump. The president’s campaign ran an ad showing video of her release from an Alabama prison during the Super Bowl, and she was a guest at the State of Union speech a year and a half ago.

Alice Marie Johnson to speak at National Civil Rights Museum June 3

Johnson remains a convicted felon, and she will not be allowed to vote in the November election.

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Alice Johnson President Donald Trump Alice Marie Johnson clemency Former inmate
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a Nashville-based reporter with more than 30 years of journalism experience as a writer, editor and columnist covering the state Legislature and Tennessee politics for The Daily Memphian.


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