Otis Johnson went to jail at the age of 25. When he got out at 69, he rejoined a world that was starkly different from the one he remembered. This is his story.
Stepping out into Times Square in New York City, Otis Johnson is struck by the overwhelming number of people. Everyone seems to be walking quickly with blank faces and wires in their ears.
He’s confused. Being completely removed from society since 1975, Johnson thinks he’s entered a dystopia where everyone has become a secret agent wearing wires. The Steve Jobs era has completely passed him by.
In August 2014, Johnson was released from prison after serving a 44-year sentence for the attempted murder of a police officer. He went to jail when he was 25 years old. By the time he came out, he was 69.
Johnson’s release date was originally scheduled for earlier, but he ended up serving an additional eight months at the age of 69 for a juvenile shoplifting charge he received when he was 17.
Johnson represents a very small set of people in the United States. In 2013, approximately 3,900 inmates were released from US prisons after serving at least 20 years, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That is less than 0.7% of all state prisoners released that year.