Feb 05, 2019

From Federal Prison to Guest at the State of the Union

Post by Freedom Partners

Among the members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, family members, and friends present at the State of the Union, there will be a special guest – Alice Johnson.

This time last year, Alice was serving a life sentence with no parole in an Alabama prison. She had no hope of reuniting with her children and grandchildren outside those prison walls.

But that all changed last June when President Trump granted Alice clemency. After 21 years in federal prison as a first-time, nonviolent offender, she was given a second chance at life. She’s now using this opportunity to advocate on behalf of others like her.

Alice now speaks out about the need for change in the criminal justice system. She uses her freedom to shed light on what she went through and how politicians and leaders can put aside their differences to make second chances a reality.

Unfortunately, Alice’s story of incarceration is not unique. The United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Statistics show that one in five of those incarcerated are in prison on drug offenses. Like Alice, many of those are nonviolent or first-time offenses that came at an unreasonably high price.

Last year, Congress and President Trump rallied together to pass historic criminal justice legislation in the First Step Act. The reforms are modeled after successful measures in states like Texas that have worked to keep people from reoffending, thereby making communities safer and ultimately reducing costs. The new, bipartisan law gives federal inmates access to rehabilitative programs that prepare them for life outside prison. It also includes four provisions meant to create more proportional sentences for nonviolent, first-time offenders like Alice. Matthew Charles, who will also be a guest at the State of the Union, was a recipient of reduced sentencing under new reforms in the First Step Act.

It’s not often that a former federal prisoner finds herself a guest at the State of the Union address. Alice Johnson’s personal transformation and her work to support those in prison who deserve a second chance earned her that spot. We hope that the president and Congress will continue working to further reform the justice system to benefit everyone.