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62-Year-Old Grandmother Serving Life In Prison For Nonviolent Offense

Alice Marie Johnson has spent the last 21 years behind bars.

Alice Marie Johnson is a 62-year-old grandmother serving life for a nonviolent first offense. Johnson, who is featured in the American Civil Liberties Union’s campaign to end mass incarceration, is sharing her story and calling for  prison reform.

In a video op-ed published on Mic.com Monday (Oct. 23), Johnson explains the effect that prison has had on her family, and how one of the “worst mistakes” of her life landed her behind bars.

“One of my family members one time, and I’ll never forget this, they said that coming to visit me in prison is like visiting a gravesite,” she said. “They said that they can see the place where my body lay but they could never take me home again.”

In the late ‘90s, Johnson was a single mother of four when she lost her job in management, and set out to make some "quick money" to feed her family. “I struggled financially," she recalls. “I couldn’t find a job fast enough to take care of my family. I felt like a failure. I went to a complete panic and out of desperation I made one of the worst decisions of my life to make some quick money. I became involved in a drug conspiracy.”

Johnson was charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine, attempted possession of cocaine, and money laundering. She is currently incarcerated at the Aliceville Correctional Facility in Aliceville, Ala.

Johnson, a mother, grandmother and now a great-grandmother, will mark 21 years in federal prison next Monday (Oct. 31). The Mississippi native has lost both of her parents since she's been incarcerated, and was unable to be with them in their final days. She has also missed the births of her four grandchildren and a great grandchild. But if there’s one thing that she’s “most proud of,” it’s becoming a playwright.

“The plays that I write have been viewed by literally thousands of women,” Johnson proudly said.

In 2016, President Obama made history by commuting more sentences for non-violent drug offenders than any other president in history. But while Johnson has been a model prisoner, she was not approved for release.

“When the criteria came out for clemency, I thought for sure — in fact, I was certain that I’d met and exceeded all of the criteria. I had 100 [percent] clear conduct, for the entire time my entire time in prison. No disciplinary infractions,” Johnson said revealing that receiving letters of support from members of Congress, the public, and prison staff didn’t help her get released “I had so much support. I was denied again with no explanation given, so it leaves me wondering what more I could have done.”

Johnson is one of thousands of nonviolent offenders serving life for drug-related crimes that come with mandatory maximum sentences. More than half of said offenders are black.

Johnson's daughter has launched a Change.org petition to encourage President Donald Trump to grant her clemency. The petition has received more than 100,00 signatures.

Hear more of Johnson’s story below.

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Trailblazers Portrayed In 'Hidden Figures' To Receive Congressional Gold Medals

Engineers Mary Jackson and Christine Darden, mathematician Katherine Johnson and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughn are being honored with the highest U.S. civilian award.

The four trailblazers, three of whom were depicted in the film Hidden Figures, will receive Congressional Gold Medal, ABC News reports. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) helped introduce the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act, a bipartisan bill signed by President Donald Trump last Friday (Nov. 8).

As the highest civilian award in the U.S., the Congressional Gold Medal recognizes those who have performed an achievement that has had a lasting impact on American history and culture.

Johnson, who celebrated her 101st birthday last summer, calculated trajectories for numerous NASA space missions beginning in the early 1950s. Vaughn, who died in 2008, led the West Area Computing unit for nine years, and was the first black supervisors at the national Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which later became NASA.

Jackson, who died in 2005, was NASA’s first black engineer. Darden became an engineer at NASA 16 years after Jackson and went on to “revolutionize aeronautic design.” She was also the first black person to be promoted to Senior Executive at NASA's Langley Research Center, and has also authored more than 50 articles on aeronautics design.

“Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dr. Christine Darden made monumental contributions to science and our nation,” said Senator Harris. “The groundbreaking accomplishments of these four women, and all of the women who contributed to the success of NASA, helped us win the space race but remained in the dark far too long. I am proud our bill to honor these remarkable women has passed Congress. These pioneers remain a beacon for Black women across the country, both young and old.”

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Courtesy of Crawford Family, WVLT

Authorities Release Grisly Details Of Alexis Crawford’s Murder

Alexis Crawford was strangled to death before her body was thrown in a trash bin, the Fulton Country Superior Court revealed in court documents released on Tuesday (Nov. 12).

Crawford died on Oct. 31, reports the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Four days earlier, the 21-year-old Clark Atlanta University senior filed a police report against her roommate, Jordyn Jones's boyfriend, Barron Bentley, accusing him of sexual assault. Crawford had a rape kit performed on her at a local hospital. Crawford's decision to go to police caused tension between her and Jones, which erupted in a physical fight.

“As a result of the physical altercation, Barron Brantley choked the victim until she was deceased,” the Atlanta Police Department said.

After killing Crawford, Jones and Brantley, both age 21, stuffed her body into a “plastic bin” and transported it to Exchange Park in Decatur, Ga., where they left her remains.

Crawford and Jones knew each other for at least two years, and became close while studying at Clark Atlanta. The Michigan native even visited Crawford’s family’s home during the holidays.

Brantley confessed to Crawford's murder and led police to her body last Friday (Nov. 7). Jones was arrested the following day.

Brantley and Jones are both charged with felony murder and are being held without bond.

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Kansas City To Remove Martin Luther King’s Name From Street Signs

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name is set to be removed from street signs around Kansas City after resident voted Tuesday (Nov. 5), to drop MLK Boulevard and restore the parkway back to its original name, The Paseo.

The measure, which passed with approximately 70 percent of the vote, was spearheaded by Save the Paseo, a grassroots movement whose mission is to “preserve the name of KC’s most historic boulevard and find a way to honor Dr. King that brings the City together.”  Stretching 10 miles north and south, The Paseo is the longest, and one of the oldest streets in KC.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas introduced the resolution to have the street renamed, after nearly 40 years of failed attempts at honoring the late Civil Rights hero. The MLK street signs were erected this past February. “People want to make sure that we engage with enough different community stakeholders, and I think it's fair to say that did not happen," Lucas told The Kansas City Star in reaction to the vote.

Rep. Vernon P. Howard, who helped lead the MLK name change effort, believes that the issue is race-related. Howard said Save the Paseo group members are of mostly white residents who don’t fully grasp the significance of the name change. Paseo members held a silent protest at the Paseo Baptist Church last Sunday (Nov. 3).

“This is a white-led movement that is trying to dictate to black people in the black community who our heroes should be, who we honor, where we honor them and how we honor them,” Howard said. “That is the pathology of white privilege and that is the epitome of systemic structural racism.”

The street sign discrepancy began after the city changed the address of more than 1,800 residents without asking. Kansas City law requires that at least two-thirds of residents approve a street name before it can be changed, although the rule is not typically enforced, according to The Star. Diane Euston, a member of Save Paseo, said that she was “proud of Kansas City” after Tuesday's vote.

Kansas City is expected to remove more than 100 signs, including those that cut through a predominately black neighborhood in town. Although Kansas City has a park named after King, the city will go back to being one of the largest major metropolitan areas without a street named in King's honor.

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