Alice Marie Johnson celebrates 1st Christmas as a free woman; talks prison reform

First Christmas as a free woman

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - After two decades behind bars, Alice Marie Johnson spent her first Christmas as a free woman Tuesday.

Johnson spent the holidays at home with family after being released from prison in June.

"They are my gift. Freedom is a gift, and I don't take it lightly either what has been done for me," said Johnson.

She served 21 years for a first-time, non-violent drug offense.

“I’m a first-time, non-violent offender, there is no way that a life sentence should ever have been on the table for me,” said Johnson.

Now a free woman, Johnson cherishes every moment spent with her loved ones.

"We did something that I missed so much, and that was we sang around the piano. After dinner we gathered around the piano and we sang, and we just enjoyed each other," said Johnson.

She said about 75 of her loved ones gathered to celebrate, eating, opening presents, spending time with her grandchildren and creating new traditions.

"The food was wonderful, the company was wonderful and I can say now I'm home," said Johnson.

She is also making major strides when it comes to prison reform.

Alice Johnson focuses on prison reform

"One of the main things that I've been doing is fighting for reform, for prison reform for criminal justice reform, and I'm so blessed to have witnessed and been apart of this whole movement," said Johnson.

Johnson referred to “First Step Act,” a bi-partisan bill that is one of the biggest prison reforms in decade.

“One of the things I’ve been doing is using my face, using my story to magnify the stories of people who you don’t see who are locked away serving long sentences, many of them life sentences for non-violent crimes,” said Johnson.

She also shared her story in a book she wrote titled, “After Life: My Journey from Incarceration to Freedom.”

“This has been my journey. It starts with my life so that you’ll come to know me as a person. You’ll come to know my family and then what went wrong in my life and how I was able to overcome challenges in prison,” said Johnson.

Her platform is now bigger than ever with invitations to speak at the United Nations, billboards in airports and being named one the most searched people in 2018.

Johnson hopes to use her voice so others like herself can too see freedom.

“It makes me feel really good because I know people are counting on me, they’re depending upon me. The people who are still incarcerated and families who are still suffering. They’re depending upon me," said Johnson.

Copyright 2018 WMC. All rights reserved.