The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project
From the 11th Annual Shorty Awards

The Movement to Free Alice Johnson

Entered in Social Good Campaign


In 2017, Mic set out to tell the story of Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother who was sentenced to life in federal prison for a first time, non-violent drug offense.

Johnson's unjust story exposes the deep-seated problems with America's criminal justice system: over 3,000 people have been sentenced to prison for acts just like her. For most cases like this, clemency by the President is usually the only option.

Mic's goal was to leverage its authoritative voice and platform to generate widespread momentum for improving the criminal justice system and giving individuals, such as Johnson, a second chance.

Strategy and Execution

Following original reports, Mic exclusively interviewed Johnson over Skype from federal prison to share her story with the world. After widespread attention on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, Johnson's story began making global headlines and garnering the attention of leading criminal justice organizations (ACLU, Color of Change, and Cut50) and influential celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West. Mic continued to report on Johnson's progressive case towards clemency and followed Kardashian West as she set out to bring the issues directly to President Trump.


After seeing Mic's social media movement to free Johnson, Kim Kardashian West pledged to join Mic's efforts and took action. Following an in-person meeting in the Oval Office with the President and after 8 months of reporting, Johnson was granted freedom on June 6, 2018 after already serving 21 years of her life sentence.

Mic's editor-at-large, Jake Horowitz, interviewed Kardashian West, along with other activists and individuals involved, about her fight to free Johnson which gained global attention from top-tier outlets including The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, and more.

The story continues to receive widespread attention and has created a groundswell of momentum for broader criminal justice reform. Sparked by this energy, the FIRST STEP Act passed in Congress at the end of 2018, signifying the first major bipartisan criminal justice legislation passed in decades. President Trump continues to push for justice reform, making it a key moment at the February 2019 State of the Union Address where he invited Johnson to attend and shared her successful reform story.


Video for The Movement to Free Alice Johnson

Entrant Company / Organization Name



Entry Credits