Alice Johnson, the 63-year-old woman released from prison Wednesday after President Donald Trump commuted her life sentence, said that she feels like her life is starting over after she spent more than two decades jailed for nonviolent drug offenses.
“I’m just so thankful,” Johnson told reporters gathered Wednesday outside the Federal Correctional Institution Aliceville in Alabama. “This is a miracle day.”
Johnson was reunited with her family 22 years after she was convicted of charges connected to a Memphis-based cocaine trafficking operation.
In an appearance Thursday morning on the “Today” show, Johnson said her heart leaped when she saw her family gathered outside the prison.
“We are going to appreciate every single moment we have,” she said. “Sometimes we take family and life for granted. I’ll never do that again.”
She added that she hopes to use her newfound freedom to help people still in the prison system.
“I can’t just walk away and forget about those who have been left behind,” she said. “I want to take this chance to try to magnify what has happened with me, so that people will remember there are people just like me who are first-time nonviolent offenders who pose no safety risk to their communities.”
She told CNN on Thursday that even though it had only been one day since her release, she already had a job lined up.
“My plan is to start work,” she said. “And my plan is also to work hard on helping to change some of these laws. Something has to happen, and I believe what has already begun is a good first step with prison reform.”
Trump commuted Johnson’s sentence Wednesday, one week after celebrity socialite Kim Kardashian West pleaded her case in a meeting with the president. Johnson thanked both Trump and Kardashian West in several interviews Wednesday and Thursday.
“Only God could have touched Kim K’s heart like that,” Johnson told CNN. "She said she felt a connection when she saw and heard my story."
The president shared well-wishes for Johnson in a tweet Thursday morning.
The president has issued several pardons since his January 2017 inauguration. Last week he pardoned conservative filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to violating campaign finance laws.
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