Alice Marie Johnson spent 21 years in federal prison, but she doesn't consider the time wasted.
During her years behind bars, serving a life sentence without parole for her role in a drug conspiracy, Johnson became an ordained minister, wrote plays, and was a role model for countless other inmates.
"Time is a gift from God, and it's so important what you do with that time," Johnson, now free, said at the George Washington University Law School Wednesday for an event on clemency. "I know many people mourn those years I was away. My family mourned those years. I mourn the separation, but I don't mourn it in the sense that my life was useless or I had no impact."
President Trump commuted Johnson's sentence in June—the first commutation of his presidency—after a personal appeal from reality megastar Kim Kardashian, who was moved by a video detailing Johnson's case.
It was an almost unbelievable turn of luck for Johnson, who had been inexplicably denied clemency by the Obama White House despite her model conduct. Johnson said she is now dedicated to speaking out on behalf of the inmates she left behind:
I don't take freedom lightly, because this is a gift I have received. It's a miracle. I try to speak from my heart. I don't have a prepared speech. I may not have the most glowing and fancy words, but what you hear from me is straight from the heart. I don't feel that I was denied or delayed. I was destined for this. I believe the Lord has raised up my voice for such a time as this, that this is the moment he called me into to speak out, to be not just a number, to not just be someone that they read about, but a human being. It's an issue that should prick the conscious of every American citizen that sees what happened to me, to know that but for the grace of God, I could have been them, and they could have been me.
I'm thankful to be a face of hope not only for prisoners, but a face of hope for those who are free yet in prison.
As Johnson noted, and as Reason has reported, there are many, many more Alice Johnsons in prison.