He was in jail for 44 years. When he came out, he experienced a whole new tech world
In 1975, Otis Johnson was convicted of assault and murder of a police officer. He was sentenced to 44 years in prison. Needless to say, while Johnson was in jail, the world as he knew it changed and advanced rapidly. When he was finally let out in 2014, Johnson was at a loss for words, and he described his world as a dystopia of sorts where everyone seemed to be wearing wires.
When Johnson entered Times Square in New York, he was completely overwhelmed thinking people to be secret agents. He was perplexed and confused. Being removed from society, this man, who was jailed for 44 years found it difficult to adjust to the modern world of the internet and technology.
1 After being away for 44 years, He Was Disoriented
Life had just passed by Otis Johnson. When he entered jail, convicted for murdering a police officer he was just 25. The year 1975 wasn’t as technologically advanced as today. The era of computers as a common way of life and the internet wasn’t exactly a phenomenon then.
Johnson was released in August 2014. He had served 44 long years in prison and now after being released, he was suffering from a big case of disorientation. Johnson was part of a small group of people who in 2013-14 were released after serving 20 years in prison. Johnson was provided with documents that included his ID card, his case history, two bus tickets and $40. Johnson allowed an Al Jazeera camera crew to follow him around documenting his experience.
2 In An Unknown Futuristic World
Otis Johnson seemed to be in a futuristic world. He had no family connections, having lost them all due to his long sentence. Johnson relied only on the hospitality and support of the Fortune Society, an NGO which provides support, food and housing to ex-servicemen and ex-prisoners in Harlem.
Johnson began navigating the world in the best way he thought fitting. He joined a mosque in community prayer; he practiced meditations and Tai chi. Every day he walked the streets of New York in amazement of the advancement and changes all around him. He would return at night by 9p.m to the shelter.
3 People Seemed To Be Speaking To Themselves
When Johnson first stepped foot on the subway in New York and made his way to the Times Square, he actually got a culture shock. He was even more surprised to find the price of a public call from a payphone to be $1 for four minutes. In the seventies, it was just 25 cents.
What he found most weird was the fact that almost every passerby in the street seemed to be conversing with themselves and had funny wires stuck in their ears. People hardly even looked up from the peculiar gadgets they carried in their hands and seemed completely immersed in them. What amazed Otis Johnson most was the different things on display in food shops. He said, ‘I eat different things now because I’m looking at all this crazy stuff they’ve got. So I try it out.’ He was excited at the variety of cakes and pastries on display in the counters lining the supermarket. He even admitted never having seen jelly in peanut butter before and found it delicious.
4 No Regrets but Only the Will to Survive
Otis Johnson isn’t bitter about being in prison for so long; he can’t let that get to him and regards that as a phase of his life. Although, he has no family, he derives his pleasure from walking around the city and hearing people’s conversations on the bus or the subway. He remarked that he found it nice to be among society again. Johnson aims on working again and hopes to open a shelter for underprivileged women, although he has no idea where to get the funds from. Though, this man was a convict and spent a major part of his life in prison, his message is a powerful one.
According to Otis Johnson, people shouldn’t hold grudges as anger, stagnates the growth and development of a person. Johnson feels that there is a reason for everything that happens, but you need to forget the past and move forward into the future, and that was the best way to survive. Watch the video and his different experiences after coming out of the prison.