Imagine what it must be like to enter a brand-new world full of futuristic technology, massive cement and steel towers, and noise pollution for the first time. That’s exactly what Otis Johnson had to experience and start adjusting to the day he was released back into society after 44 years.

The Otis Johnson Story


When Otis was 25-years-old, he was arrested for the crime of attempted murder on a police officer and sentenced to prison for 44 years (from 1975 to 2014). Interestingly, as much as this article is telling his story, it speaks more volumes about how society, how we, have changed.

When Otis left prison, he got off at Times Square and just observed. The sensory overload must have been shocking. He admits that “prison affected [him] a lot. [His] re-entry was a little bit hard at first because things had changed.”

“I looked at the atmosphere and I seen that everybody, or the majority of people were talking to themselves and then I looked a little closer, and they seem to have things in their ears. iPhones they call it, or something like that.”

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Modern-day technology is something almost everyone takes for granted. You’re probably reading this on an iPhone or some kind of smartphone right now. The way Otis describes it is almost humorous, but it does make you think:

“I thought to my mind, ‘What, everybody became CIA or agents and stuff like that? Because that’s the only thing I can think of, somebody walking around with wires in their ears. That’s what they had when I was out during the 60s and the 70s.”

You can only imagine the confusion Otis must have felt coming into such a seemingly futuristic era.

“And then some people are not even looking where they’re going. So I’m trying to figure out how people do that, control themselves to walk and talk on the phone without even looking where they’re going.”

The twenty-first century he found himself was a far cry from the world he grew up in and experienced. You might even relate to Otis’ amazement and wonder when the last time was that you walked into a room and saw everyone talking to each other, face to face without technology… Exactly, it’s a rarity nowadays. But technological advancements aside, something else made Otis’ re-entry even harder… Living with the reality of not having family that he lost contact with in 1998.


Nonetheless, Otis Johnson is taking advantage of his freedom and experiencing all the new “crazy stuff” this world has to offer. One of his favorite things to do when he isn’t busy is sit in the park and meditate.

“In prison, you can only go outside at certain times. So, I like being in the sun and observing people. It’s nice, you know? It’s nice to be free.”

Below, you can watch the full 6-minute interview with Otis Johnson and be humbled by his unfiltered perspective on family, society, and his place in it all now that he’s free.

A Day in the Life of Otis Johnson: “My Life After 44 Years in Prison”

But if there is one thing Otis has learned and that we can learn, it’s this:

“You gotta let things go because holding onto anger will only stagnate your growth and development. I don’t feel society owes me anything. Everything happens for a reason, I believe. I try to go forward and that’s how I survive in society.”

…and that’s something we can all glean some wisdom from.


If you’re interested in more of Otis Johnson’s story, you can watch his journey to finding his family or the philanthropic work he’s doing today., C. S. (2015, November 26). Prisoner is released after 44 YEARS – and left totally bewildered by technology. Man who tried to kill a cop assumes anyone with earbuds is in the CIA… and don’t even mention iPhones. Retrieved November 30, 2017, from

English, A. J., & Jazeera, A. (n.d.). My life after 44 years in prison. Retrieved November 30, 2017, from

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