Otis Johnson entered prison at the age of 25. When he was released 44 years later, at the age of 69, the world outside was quite different from the one he knew before.
According to Al Jazeera, when Otis was released in 2014, he was given an ID, documents outlining his criminal case history, $40, and two bus tickets.
Otis says he spent 44 years in prison for the attempted murder and assault of a police officer.
After serving his time, re-entry into modern society was a challenge.
Otis marveled at the technology all around him.
When he noticed that pretty much every person he saw was wearing “wires in their ears,” it was an incredibly confusing and unusual sight.
He also wondered how everyone managed to get around without every looking up from their devices.
Otis says that he regrettably lost touch with his family and friends years ago, making his re-entry not only jarring, but lonely.
Otis now depends on Fortune Society, a nonprofit that provides housing and services to ex-prisoners in New York City.
Despite all of the challenges, Otis is grateful for his freedom.
He is still learning about all of the new “crazy stuff” at the grocery store.
“There’s so many things that you can eat. So it’s a hard choice to pick out really the food that you want.”
Even a simple snack threw him for a loop.
“Peanut butter and jelly in the same place in a jar? That was strange.”
But it was a comfort to see that some things never change.
Otis has taken full accountability for his own actions, and doesn’t feel he is owed anything for the time he served.
He says, “You’ve got to let things go because holding on to anger will only stagnate your growth and development.”
“Everything happens for a reason, I believe. So I try to let that go and deal with the future instead of dealing with the past.”