In 1997, Alice Marie Johnson was sentenced to life imprisonment as a first time, non-violent drug offender in Memphis, Tennessee. Over the course of the next 22 years in prison, Alice became a prison minister, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, and an inspirational advocate for second chances.
In 2016, Alice wrote a powerful op-ed for CNN pleading for forgiveness and a second chance at life. Alice’s daughter started a petition to President Obama asking for him to grant her clemency. Her application was denied by the Obama administration.
In May 2018, prison reform activist Kim Kardashian West and White House senior official Jared Kushner met with President Trump in the Oval Office to share Alice Johnson’s story with the President. Less than one month later, President Trump commuted Alice Johnson’s sentence and she was released from prison. At the 2019 State of the Union address, Alice was a guest of the President and received a standing ovation from Congress.
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As Americans, we have the power to shape our own destiny — and thanks to the leadership of President Trump, Alice Johnson was given a second chance at life. Just weeks ago, over 100 million Americans tuned into the Super Bowl, which featured a powerful TV commercial aired by the Trump 2020 re-election campaign telling the story of Alice Johnson. Previous presidents have talked about passing criminal justice reform — President Trump got it done.
In late 2018, President Trump made history signing the First Step Act into law. This piece of legislation has not only helped to reduce sentences for non-violent criminals, but it has also increased the number of inmates eligible for drug addiction programs. Aside from the First Step Act, the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal includes over $500 million to help decrease recidivism rates in the form of reentry programs and occupational training programs. Thousands of families just like Alice’s are being reunited thanks to this historic legislation.
As a result of the First Step Act, the Department of Justice reported that 3,100 inmates were released in July of 2019 from the Bureau of Prisons as a result of the increase in good conduct time. Additionally, the First Step Act has retroactively applied the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which has reduced the disparity between powder and crack cocaine mandatory minimum sentences. This resulted in 1,691 sentence reductions.
The First Step Act also looks to improve the effects of the justice system on juveniles and families. It ended solitary confinement for juveniles and established new practices which allowed for those in prison to improve themselves, stay connected with their families and have an easy transition back into society.
President Trump has been able to support both law enforcement officials and honor the rights of criminals. The president’s “smart on crime” approach has decreased violent crime across the country, making communities safe again while also protecting our brave police officers. The president signed the first commission on law enforcement in half a century to study key issues facing law enforcement and our criminal justice system.
Since 2016, the violent crime rate in America has dropped 4.6%, meaning the number of robberies, murder rate and property crime have all decreased since the President took office. Taking preventative measures on crime keeps our communities safe, protects our law enforcement officials and keeps people out of the prison system. Under this President, America is safe again.
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One month ago, Senior White House Official Jared Kushner and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis, were in Milwaukee participating in a roundtable discussion for the Joseph Project, a program that helps ex-convicts find employment.
The First Step Act was signed into law with massive bipartisan support. All Americans can be proud of this “first step” in reforming the American justice system, and be optimistic for more to come under four more years of President Trump.
Ryan Christens is a junior studying business management and marketing. He is also chairman of the College Republicans of UW-Madison.