After 39 Years in Prison, Otis Johnson Followed by Cameras as He Reacts to the Modern World

December 1, 2015 Updated: December 1, 2015

Otis Johnson went to jail in 1975. He got out 39 years later.

Johnson served his time for the attempted murder of a police officer and shoplifting.

Upon his release, he was given his ID, documents outlining his criminal case history, $40, and two bus tickets.

He’s lost all family ties while serving his time, so he now relies on Fortune Society, a nonprofit that provides housing and services to ex-prisoners in Harlem in the Manhattan borough of New York City.

Soon after his release Al Jazeera cameras began following Johnson around as he tried to adjust to the new world, which has changed a lot since he went into prison. 

Sitting in Times Square, Johnson says he’s “never seen nothing like this before.”

“I stand out here for a long time watching this crazy stuff,” he said. 

Johnson’s day also includes attending a local mosque, practicing tai chi and meditating, and trying to pursue his dream of opening a shelter for women. 

He also enjoys sitting in parks and basking in the sun, and observing people.

The biggest change he noticed was people frequently walking around while listening to music or talking on the phone, and also how lots of people now look at their phones while walking.

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