When President Donald Trump commuted Alice Marie Johnson’s life sentence in 2018, many observers assumed that the grandmother was fully free. What they didn’t realize at the time was that Johnson, who was convicted of a first-time, nonviolent drug offense, still wore the “invisible shackle” of probation.
While working as a criminal justice reform advocate the past two years, Johnson feared she could be returned to prison for missing an appointment with a supervisor, traveling across state lines without written permission, or committing a paperwork error. These and other technical violations put tens of thousands of people on probation back behind bars each year. Though not crimes, they are jailable offenses for someone under community supervision.