June 6 (UPI) — President Donald Trump granted clemency Wednesday for Alice Marie Johnson, a first-time, non-violent drug offender who was given a life sentence without parole.
Hours after Trump’s action, the 63-year-old great-grandmother left a federal prison in Aliceville, Ala., where she’s been serving time since 1996.
“I am just so thankful,” she told reporters. “I feel like my life is starting over again.”
In a statement Trump said Johnson “accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades.”
“Despite receiving a life sentence, Alice worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison, and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates,” the statement said.
Johnson’s warden, case manager and vocational training instructor each wrote letters in support of her clemency.
The statement added the Trump administration will always be tough on crime but believes those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance.
Trump discussed Johnson’s case with reality TV star Kim Kardashian at the White House last week, when she appealed to the president on prison reform.
Ahead of the meeting, the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star said she intended to seek a reprieve for Johnson.
For months, Kardashian has campaigned on behalf of Johnson to senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner, whom she also met at the White House.
“BEST NEWS EVER!” Kardashian tweeted Wednesday.
Johnson’s commutation precedes a number of prison-related actions Trump is considering, CNN reported.
Johnson petitioned former President Barack Obama for clemency three times but was denied under his relief program.
“My family has been broken beyond what anyone can imagine,” Johnson told Business Insider last month. “A commutation would mean wholeness for me and my family again.”
Her case has been described as an extreme example of harsh, mandatory-minimum drug sentencing that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s.
Johnson, an ordained minister, is also a playwright, mentor, counselor, tutor and a companion for suicidal inmates, and did not commit any disciplinary infractions in two decades in prison.
She said she had been waiting with “bated breath” for a resolution since Trump and Kardashian met.
“I’m still waiting to exhale!” she previously said in an email from the Aliceville correctional facility. “I’m hanging in here and won’t let go until I walk out of these doors!”