An Alabama grandmother is fighting for her freedom after being handed a life sentence with no chance for parole for nonviolent drug charges. This was her first-ever offense.
Alice Johnson, 62, was arrested in 1996 and charged with drug conspiracy and money laundering. According to Mic, a string of events caused the mother of five’s life to crumble. First she got divorced, then lost her job, and had to file for bankruptcy, which prompted her house to go into foreclosure. Sadly in 1992, her youngest son Corey died in an accident.
Suffering from depression and watching her life spiral out of control, Johnson started hanging out with drug dealers and found herself caught up in a lucrative operation that transported and distributed cocaine to Memphis, Tennessee. In 1993, she was arrested, along with 15 others involved in the same drug bust.
Somehow the prosecutors convinced the others to testify against her in court. While they were given sentences ranging from probation without jail time to 10 years, Johnson was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus another 25 years.
While Johnson takes responsibility for her actions, she strongly believes she that her sentence isn’t fair or just.
“It feels like I am sitting on death row,” she says. “Unless things change, I will never go home alive
Now 21 years after first being locked up, her only hope of living on the outside is by being granted clemency.
While her case does meet its criteria, there’s a chance it may not happen. Last December, former President Barack Obama granted clemency to 231 individuals, but Johnson wasn’t one of them. Plus, she’s been passed up for clemency on three separate occasions.
Ironically, President Trump is the only one who has the power to currently set her free. But given #45’s disdain for Black women and an Attorney General hell bent on continuing the nation’s War on Drugs, Johnson’s chances appear slim. But she’s not giving up: The ACLU is helping her raise awareness around her case and push for criminal justice reform in this country.
“Please wake up, America, and help end this injustice. It’s time to stop to stop over-incarcerating your own citizens. Because that is what is going on,” Johnson told Mic in a recent interview.
While one might believe that situations like Johnson’s are rare; sadly that is not the case.
According to the ACLU, 3,278 people are serving life sentences without parole for nonviolent offenses, with most of those sentences being mandatory. Not surprisingly, a majority of these mandatory sentence cases—65 percent—affect African-Americans.
In the meantime, Johnson’s daughter Tretessa created a Change.org petition to encourage Trump to release her mother from prison.
— PrisonReformMovement (@PrisonReformMvt) October 24, 2017
The petition reads: “She was one of thousands of first time, non-violent offenders who were given mandatory lengthy prison terms. She was sentenced as part of a larger drug conspiracy. My mother has accepted responsibility for her actions that led to her imprisonment and has used that experience to better her life and the lives of others. Since being incarcerated my mother has been a model prisoner who mentors women and has become an ordained minister. The bid for clemency has been backed by prison staff, members of congress and academics.”