Alice Marie Johnson is 62 years old. She had grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, but because of mandatory minimum sentencing laws, she will never see them outside of prison, where she is serving a life sentence without parole for a nonviolent offense.
Johnson was sentenced to life without parole in 1996 for nonviolent drug conspiracy charges, and after 21 years in prison, Johnson’s only hope of ever seeing the outside world is clemency.
While Johnson’s case does meet the criteria for clemency, she was not one of the lucky individuals granted clemency by the president and has been passed over three times. As a result, she is now trying to raise awareness and push for criminal justice reform.
“Please wake up, America, and help end this injustice. It’s time to stop to stop over-incarcerating your own citizens. Because that is what is going on,” Johnson told Mic in an interview.
According to the ACLU, 3,278 people are serving life sentences without parole for nonviolent offenses, with most of those sentences being mandatory. That means judges had no discretion over the sentencing and were instead held to minimum sentencing laws that disproportionately affect Black people, with 65 percent of people serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses being Black.