The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

President Commutes Life-Without-Parole Sentence of Alice Marie Johnson

Mother of five was imprisoned in 1996 for a nonviolent drug offense without the possibility of parole.


President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, 63, who has been serving life without parole for a nonviolent drug offense since 1996. Attorneys Jennifer Turner from the American Civil Liberties Union, Brittany Barnett from the Buried Alive Project, and Shawn Holley from Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert represented Johnson in her application for clemency. The ACLU featured Johnson in its 2013 report "A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses."

"Alice Marie Johnson was convicted of a nonviolent drug offense in 1996 and received a sentence far too severe for the crime: life without the possibility of parole. Alice has become a grandmother and a great-grandmother while behind bars, and she has talked to me about the pain of being kept from her family with no hope of ever rejoining their lives. I'm grateful to the president for allowing Alice to go home after 21.5 years in prison and to Kim Kardashian for her advocacy on Alice's behalf," said Jennifer Turner of the ACLU. "I urge the president to do the same for other federal prisoners serving extreme sentences that don't match the offenses, while reforming our draconian sentencing laws that produce these senseless punishments."

"It's like an un-executed sentence of death," said Ms. Johnson in an interview with Mic. "[My family] told me that coming to visit me in prison is like visiting a gravesite. They said that they could see the place where my body lay, but they can never take me home again."

"This country's addiction to mass incarceration has devastated millions of families like Alice's, with emotional and economic consequences that can last generations," said Turner.

Johnson was sentenced to mandatory life without parole, plus 25 years, for involvement in a conspiracy to sell cocaine. It was her first arrest. While in prison, she has taken numerous educational and vocational training courses. Johnson has volunteered as a tutor for prisoners working toward their GEDs and in the prison's hospice program. She has held jobs with the prison's business office, hospital, chapel, and food service administration.

As of January 2018, 1,545 people in federal prisons are serving life without parole for drug offenses, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

For "A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses," visit:

For information about the ACLU's Smart Justice campaign to end mass incarceration:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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