The repeating themes throughout the Republican National Convention were freedom, American greatness, and redemption. President Trump’s initiatives to work for criminal justice reform and invest in second chance ministries were highlighted over the last week with the live pardon of Hope For Prisoners Founder Jon Ponder and the inspiring story of Alice Johnson. It was one of several touching moments as Ponder stood with his arresting police officer, who became his best friend, and was awarded a pardon that erased all record of his criminal history.
On the National Day of Prayer, Hope for Prisoners founder Jon Ponder came to the White House to share his story with the American people.
Today, President Trump welcomed Jon back—and signed his full pardon. pic.twitter.com/LsFxjGFoRR
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 26, 2020
The theme of redemption was woven through the convention, highlighting the First Step Act, which freed thousands of non-violent offenders from overlong sentencing put into place by the Clinton administration with Joe Biden’s help.
When Alice Johnson took her place at the speaker’s microphone on Thursday, she wrapped up the redemption theme with a beautiful, hopeful, and inspiring message for all Americans. Johnson was sentenced to life in prison for her involvement in a drug trafficking ring in 1996. “None of us want to be defined forever based on our worst decision,” she said.
“When President Trump heard about me — about the injustice of my story — he saw me as a person. He had compassion. And he acted,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. I always remembered that God knew my name, even in my darkest hour. But I never thought a president would!”
Johnson believes that her time in prison was a necessary step to becoming who she is today. “The nearly twenty-two years I spent in prison were not wasted,” she said. “God had a purpose and a plan for my life. I was not delayed or denied. I was destined for such a time as this.” Johnson is now a tireless advocate for criminal justice reform and her enthusiasm for the cause is contagious.
Her full speech is below and worth every minute of your time. Johnson is an inspiring figure whose passion will change lives. We would never have heard her story if Hillary Clinton had become president.
— Team Trump (Text VOTE to 88022) (@TeamTrump) August 28, 2020
Criminal justice reform is a righteous cause that Donald Trump has brought to the attention of conservatives in a way that is effective and plays on our natural desire to extend grace and second chances. It is a major part of his platform and the message is getting out.
Earlier this year at CPAC 2020, criminal justice reform advocates were invited by Matt Schlapp to set up a booth and work to persuade conservatives that justice reform is an issue they should care about. They did a great job. The stark contrast between how people without status or means are treated by our justice system while the elite ruling class is rarely if ever held accountable for its crimes was a brilliant message to put forward. The American value of “liberty and justice for all” needs to be upheld and people like Alice Johnson are needed to remind us of the “forgotten people” and help lead us to a better understanding of rehabilitation and rebuilding lives.