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Alice Johnson Freed After Trump Grants Clemency Plea

Alice Marie Johnson

A 63-year-old grandmother jailed in 1996 on a non-violent drug charge has been released from prison after she was granted clemency by President Trump.

Alice Johnson ran towards an emotional reunion with her family after leaving the prison in Pickens County, Alabama.

Her case was highlighted when Kim Kardashian West, who has lobbied for her release, met Mr Trump last week.

The White House said Johnson had been a model prisoner and worked hard to rehabilitate herself.

She was jailed alongside 15 others for taking part in a cocaine distribution ring, and convicted on charges of attempted possession of drugs and money-laundering in Tennessee.

What did the White House say?

“Ms Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behaviour and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades,” the White House said in a statement.

“Despite receiving a life sentence, Alice worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison, and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates.”

The statement added that the administration believed in being tough on crime but believed in giving a second chance to those who tried to better themselves in prison.

How did Kim Kardashian get involved?

Kardashian West joined what has been a long-running campaign for Johnson’s freedom, spearheaded by the clemency foundation CAN-DO, friends and family.

She was first alerted to the issue after spotting a video about the case on social media.

Kardashian West visited the White House with her lawyer, Shawn Holley, and had also linked up with Mr Trump’s son-in-law and presidential adviser, Jared Kushner, who has been lobbying for prison reform.

In a tweet shortly after the White House announcement, Kardashian West described Alice Johnson’s clemency as inspirational.

How do you get a presidential pardon?

The US constitution allows the president the “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment”.

A president can offer clemency, commutation or a full pardon, even if an individual has not been charged or convicted for federal crimes – but not at the state level.

There are currently about 9,000 clemency petitions left over from the ramp up in applications that occurred under the Obama administration, and according to University of St Thomas law professor Mark Osler, the Trump administration has done little to clear the backlog.

He adds that while he is happy for Ms Johnson and her family, there is an inherent unfairness in the way it was accomplished.

“We seem to have a dual process – one that starts with at the pardon attorney and one where people make a direct appeal to the president,” he told the BBC.

“I hope he would look beyond celebrities at the hundreds and thousands of people who are more like Alice Johnson than like Scooter Libby.”

At the same time, Mr Osler says that applying for clemency through the US pardon attorney is a “ridiculously bureaucratic” process and that if Mr Trump is interested in making the process faster, that’s a good thing.

“I think he should ditch the long process and formalise the short one,” Mr Osler told the BBC. “[It would be] far more than President Obama did in the first two years of his administration.”

Source: BBC

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