“It’s nice. It’s nice to be free.”

Man released after 44 years in jail marvels at a changed world

The Daily Buzz – Thu, Nov 26, 2015


Imagine stepping out your door one morning and finding that the world you thought you knew had completely changed. That’s what happened to one man when he was released from prison after 44 years.

Otis Johnson went to jail in 1970 for assaulting a police officer. He was 25 years old, and he would spend the next 44 years in prison. Upon his release, a team from Al Jazeera English accompanied him as he adjusted, and made a moving six-minute documentary about Johnson’s re-entry into a world that at times he struggles to understand.

“My re-entry was a little bit hard at first, because things had changed,” says Johnson. We see him marvel at the lights and screens of New York’s Times Square.

“I saw that everybody, the majority of people was talking to themselves,” says Johnson. “Then I looked closer and they seemed to have things in their ears.”

Though he’s simply observing people talking on cellphones with earbuds, to him it looks like they must be CIA agents.

“That’s the only thing I can think of — somebody walking around with wires in their ears.”

Johnson is also impressed by humanity’s new ability to walk while looking at their phones instead of where they are going.

“That was amazing to me,” says Johnson.

What else impresses him? Peanut butter and jelly in the same jar — and the fact that Skippy is still around.

But while Johnson marvels at the changes, we see through his words and actions in this film that perhaps it is us who should be marvelling at him.
“Being in society is a good feeling,” says Johnson, sitting outside in the sunshine. “It’s nice. It’s nice to be free.”

Otis Johnson

Though he came out of jail without friends or family to call on, he seems to approach the world with an unlikely optimism.

“You gotta let things go. Holding on to anger will only stagnate your growth and development,” says Johnson, as we see him meditating in a park.

“I don’t feel that society owes me anything, so I let that go and deal with the future instead of dealing with the past. I try not to go backward, I try to go forward, and that’s how I survive in society.”

Find out more about Otis:



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