Aug 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Alice Johnson praises Trump for criminal justice reform at RNC

Alice Johnson, who had her life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense commuted by President Trump in 2018, praised the president's commitment to criminal justice reform at the Republican National Convention on Thursday.

The big picture: Johnson celebrated the First Step Act, the Trump-backed bipartisan criminal justice bill that passed six months after her commutation. The bill led to the release of at least 3,000 inmates by the end of 2019, according to NBC News.

Between the lines: After a summer of protests over police brutality and system racism, the Trump campaign has recently poured big money into Facebook ads promoting the administration's criminal justice reform efforts.

What she's saying: “I was once told that the only way I would ever be reunited with my family would be as a corpse. But by the grace of God and the compassion of President Donald John Trump, I stand before you tonight…and I assure you, I’m not a ghost! I am alive, I am well, and most importantly, I am free," Johnson said.

  • "In 1996, I began serving time in prison -- Life plus 25 years. I had never been in trouble. I was a first-time, nonviolent offender. What I did was wrong. I made decisions that I regret."
  • "Some say, ‘You do the crime. You do the time.’ However, that time should be fair and just. We’ve all made mistakes, and none of us want to be defined forever based on our worst decision."
  • “When President Trump heard about me — about the injustice of my story — he saw me as a person. He had compassion. And he acted. Free in body thanks to President Trump. But free in MIND thanks to the almighty God.”

The bottom line: "I pray that you will not just hear this message, but that you will be inspired by my story, and your compassion will lead you to take action for those who are forgotten," Johnson concluded.

Of note: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who also spoke at the RNC on Thursday, was one of the hardline conservatives who fought against the First Step Act.

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