‘It’s nice to be free’: Otis on re-entering society | Al Jazeera Close Up

After 44 years behind bars, Otis comes out to try and rebuild his life in a world that seems to have changed completely.

When Otis Johnson was 25 years old, he was sentenced for the attempted murder of a police officer.

Forty-four years later, at the age of 69, he was finally released, having served an additional eight months for a juvenile shoplifting charge from when he was 17.

Leaving the prison, Johnson was given an ID, documentation of his criminal history, $40 and two bus tickets.

Johnson had lost contact with his family during his time in prison, so he relied on Fortune Society, a nonprofit that provides housing and services to ex-prisoners in Harlem.

He spends his days navigating the world as best he can, trying to acquaint himself with new concepts, including mobile phones and slick digital advertising.

One of his favourite things after getting out of prison is spending time outdoors, in the sun, something he did not have full access to before.

To help him through the more difficult moments, he turns to meditation in the evenings, seeking to accept his current life.

A film by: Elena Boffetta & Jenna Belhumeur

EP: Yasir Khan

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114 thoughts on “‘It’s nice to be free’: Otis on re-entering society | Al Jazeera Close Up

  1. Chris Sonnenschein Reply

    Thats a good man there…. And he isn’t the only one from the system that was inside & innocent by today’s standards. Just shows what hanging with the wrong crowd can get for you. But from the other episode when he found some friends and distant relatives and they wouldn’t even give him a meal.!? The man did nuttin’!!

  2. Mariam J Reply

    I hope he finds peace

  3. ツCOFFIN DANCE Reply

    That man like time travler

  4. JOHN EDWARD Reply

    You can only feel this MAN only if you have been through the same hole as he did !
    My respect for you brother !

  5. One Day You May Reply

    Amazing man God Bless Him🙏🏼❤️

  6. Julian Leon Reply

    1:56 look in the background

    Thank me later

  7. tmanepic Reply

    They fail to mention here that he was wrongfully accused. Police got a call there was a man in a tan jacket selling drugs, when police arrived, the man shot at them and fled the scene. The police sent out a call with the only description being a man in a tan jacket. Otis just left his mom’s house and was picked up by police for matching the description. So he went to jail for 44 years because he had a tan coat on.

  8. カミル Reply

    His voice is so soft and peaceful
    i don’t like listening people constantly but i’d listen to this man the whole day and i won’t be bored

  9. TheCarlScharnberg Reply

    This is a re-upload of an old video. Could you please do an update?

  10. Bring it On Reply

    just look att his painfull eyes 0:05

  11. Dirty Harry Reply

    If this man was in England he would have many homes, he would be welcomed into any muslim household. I feel for this man you can tell this man was innocent of the crime he was incarcerated for. May Allah give him peace Ameen.

    • christopher russell Reply

      The very first clip I saw of this mans story he admitted he was guilty, he may now be taking that back, that’s up to him, but the first clip I watched he said he had been silly and his actions were a result of his mixing with the wrong crowd…..

    • Hey it’s Sbo Reply

      christopher russell when did he admit to his guilt? He spent 44 years in prison because he didn’t admit it because he’s innocent he would have come out 15 years earlier if he had admitted to being guilty. Please do your research before talking. And you sound like an ignorant racist white person.

    • christopher russell Reply

      Firstly interesting how you can’t state your point without including race, or bringing race or my race into it, why not make the comment without the racial slur, something tells me you’re a racist yourself, because it’s the first thing you seem to want to mention….as for this mans guilt the first video I saw of him and his story was a clip where he admitted he had been silly getting involved with the acts that led up to the attempted murder….there is no point for me to make “things up”, he also admitted he was a follower of the Nation of Islam, an organisation that has been been black listed by many countries as a terrorist threat and movement. He also stated he was a member of the black panthers, and they have many, and I mean many ex members in prison serving life for various serious crimes, he’s served his time for the crime he committed…so instead of using you tunnelled racialise view of the world or that big chip on your shoulder listen read and learn…..this may help you reevaluate your twisted views of the world….I say as someone myself that served a big prison sentence, good luck to him and let him get on with his life.

    • Spazzar Reply

      He attempted murder on a cop dats why he ain’t innocent

    • Gtr Pro Gaming Edits Reply

      Man just prayed to Allah akbar

  12. David Chohan Reply

    I can’t imagine what he is going thru but his voice is so smooth hope he learns the system and uploads audio books and gets some payments for living

  13. Charlie Dingle Reply

    Respect to you Otis! x

  14. hytr aaddxw3rs Reply

    where is ISLAM now

  15. Qiao Hu Reply

    Why this got re-uploaded?

  16. Moraco Mole Reply

    looks like the man whodid the crime died a long time ago

  17. Marc Dalton Reply

    0:28 NDL

    • احمد A Reply

      MarcKinmond 😂😂 yea old people encounter a wired young man

  18. Motivation Energy Reply

    1960 Skippy is still around

  19. Maung Juu Reply

    He’s one of a kind , some don’t even make it out alive

  20. Rizwan Murtaza Reply

    44 years for assaulting an officer, i’m amazed at how he is so cool about this and letting it go. I’m so incensed by his story the guy has no family and is having to embrace a foreign world all alone. Sad……so sad

  21. T 2000 Reply

    He is sweet

  22. Emppu Trubaduu Reply

    Could somebody explain to me how the american prison system expects people to survive in the real world after serving 40+ years in prison? Its clear that this guy didnt have any information of what was going on in the real world.

  23. Thevamaran Thevarajah Reply

    let this man be free

  24. The only One Reply

    If someone like this guy tried to kill someone should he really be forgiven

    • Scholahopp Schneider Reply


    • The only One Reply

      Scholahopp Schneider what do u mean why

    • Scholahopp Schneider Reply

      @The only One Why should someone forgive anyone for killing someone innocent?

    • The only One Reply

      Scholahopp Schneider oh ya that what I meant I just didn’t release what you were saying

  25. Dino Kintanar Reply

    I wish you all the luck! Be strong!

  26. WE DEM BOYZ Reply

    His only out promotion for Ip phones 🐷🐖💯

  27. praneeth bhandary Reply

    attempted murder or assault on a police officer gave him 40 years ? I think that sentencing is too harsh

  28. back office Reply

    any usa muslim pls help him

  29. Jerusalem Amanuel Tesfai Reply

    Thank u for being u..May the rest of your days be full of joy and love:)

  30. V-JK Reply

    Your Bright Smile… Wow… Alhamdulillah.

  31. Scholahopp Schneider Reply

    Thats Crazy. 44 years.
    Here no one sits for that long. Even people who kill multiple people will be out within 20 years (Sweden)

  32. Nishad Salim Reply

    44 yrs in prison for attempted murder. Some people who have actually committed murder dont even get 10 yrs.

  33. don't have a name Reply

    Otis In the 60s: “Maybe in 50 years there will be flying cars everywhere” 50 years later “People walk without seeing and talking to themselves” 😂

    Can you imagine if anyone is released from prison after 50 years and no one is helping him. how confused he is seeing the world today

  34. Timothy St.hillaire Reply

    best of luck praying 4 u


    I can’t imagine being my whole life in prison.. i would commit suicide, like what’s the point of living, when you lost 44 years? btw 69 nice numbah

  36. Matej Kostadinovski Reply

    3:05 song?

  37. Asad Shiekh Reply

    He should meet that officer if he is Alive, and finish the Job.

  38. ali khan Reply

    Did anyone else notice that he has the hints of a Danzel Washington swag walk

  39. Zartelle Rose Reply

    those rotten sons of guns(literally)..they tagged on another 8 frigging months after he did all that time. for something that happened 40plus years ago?

  40. Hamna Reply

    This is so sad. 44 years…

  41. lil hood zack Reply

    He need to tell somebody to help him look up his family

  42. Zamlan Sanoon Reply

    Ellen should get this man on show

  43. Lucifer R Reply

    Typical Muslim appeasing propaganda video by yours truly Al Jazeera.

  44. top 5 everything Reply

    Prison is a time machine. ……

  45. Ali Abdul Reply

    Wish they make a movie about him.

  46. Norm Macdonald Ruminations Reply

    Forty years ago, an anonymous caller alerted the NYPD to a suspicious man in a tan jacket selling drugs on the street. When the police arrived, the alleged drug dealer shot one of the officers and fled the scene. Hours later, a martial arts teacher, Otis Johnson, who was also wearing a tan jacket and training in a nearby park, was arrested and convicted of the attempted murder of a police officer.

    Otis spent 40 years behind bars but has always maintained that his arrest was the result of misidentification. At the age of 69, Otis finally walked out of prison to face a very different world from the one he remembered. The first episode of our new Imprisoned series, about ex-cons who say they served time for crimes they didn’t commit, tells his story.

    • FAthletic Person Reply

      he didnt do it. thats awfull

  47. Mohammad Khan Reply

    40 years for attempted murder wtf

  48. DrainedEyes Reply

    To put this into perspective, this man was imprisoned before Michael Jackson made Thriller OR Off The Wall, and he came out 10 years AFTER Michael Jackson died. We need judicial and prison reform.

  49. VORTEX Reply


    • ShieldHater 97 Reply

      I’ve seen him in someone’s video

  50. Mojtaba sadat Reply

    Omg he is my life guide good luck for him ❤️

  51. John connor Reply

    Allah is Satan and Muhammad is a false prophet. Islam is a death cult.

  52. amy benje Reply


  53. raage ahmed Reply


  54. Chris Walter Reply

    I like how he was meditating out in the middle like he had no fear of being exposed out in the open in the city like that at night time.. being in prison has made him really thick skinned and nothing to fear in a big city like that walking at night somebody tried to mug him he would have them on the ground in no time

  55. emad dabag Reply

    Song 2:03 ?

  56. Big_Lenny v1 Reply

    Learn the difference between whites and Jews, you’ll understand America a lot better.

  57. Benji Glo Reply

    That was some wise words at then end

  58. Dale And Joy Explores Reply

    this is a lesson to everybody to take : – dont go to jail and dont look at your mobile when walking because you’ll end up with no appreciation of life and you walk into a streetlight 🙂

  59. nerd Reply

    it really got me when he said ” I love children” but I realized he was never able to have any of his own because of prison

  60. Nicole Jessica Reply

    I would love to sit and have a quiet conversation with him…

  61. Muhammad shanib Muhammad shanib Reply

    ironically it reminds me one…”brook was here”!!

  62. Lmao Reply

    Yes i’m in the windows man

  63. Retro DiwaniyaKFP Reply

    The man made my cry mash allah he’s amazing

  64. Syed Osama Reply

    May he be happy and healthy And live long happily and successfully!

    We stand for every oppressed person either black or white, Muslim or non-Muslim and we stand against every oppressor either Muslim or non-Muslim.
    That’s what Islam teaches us!

  65. Big Nut Reply

    This is good

  66. Jason 87 Reply

    Wich music is that on 2:10?

  67. hollywood girl Reply

    May Allah give him happiness…this really touched me😭

  68. A random YouTuber. Reply

    its like scene from first avenger captain america

  69. Daniella Pawl Reply

    Wow …

  70. valodya putin Reply

    Shine your light on him Allah the merciful

  71. Mike The Gamer Reply

    That way his voice breaks right at the end.

  72. Cyax Reply

    I saw the first part of this and wanted to know more about Otis

  73. John Marston Reply

    May Hashem give him happiness and make him have less pain and be able to adjust to society. Amen.

  74. John Marston Reply

    Should’ve mentioned he was also framed, never did the crime.

  75. almoravid almurabit Reply

    To keep in mind that he was wrongfully arrested and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.

  76. Jerome Clay Reply

    I am willing to help out my brother. Love is still amazing. Contact me

  77. ULYSES J-A Reply

    I wonder if he still alive with all the deth going on in NY

    • Junaid Khawaja Reply

      imagine that

  78. Putul Sahani Reply

    44 years for Assault, it’s too harsh.

  79. john kim Reply

    State must pay you at least 85 million dollars for wrong charge

  80. Rolando Mota Reply

    This makes me sad. Did he find his twin nieces?? Damn…i cant even imagine. How a big chunk of life, love, smiles, happiness, passion and hope can get wiped out due to pridon. Reminds me of shawshank redemption.

  81. SANDESH Reply

    He is a good man..i can say.

  82. Roselyn Kamau Reply

    Every young African American male is accused of trying to harm a police officer…. Ain’t no justice in this world 😭😭😭😭

  83. vioviora vio Reply

    0:26 the man out from prison and look this man like, nah im going back to jail..

  84. Paul M Reply

    Shame on cousin for not allowing Otis to stay for few days.

  85. Resourceful Channel Reply

    44 years of imprisonment is too much for an attempted murder…even though he had committed a serious crime of attempting to take someone else’s life..bt that man is still breathing and living his life…bt is this man Otis alive?I don’t think so…he loved kids,bt he couldn’t hv one..he too might have wanted to be something in his life…bt dat 44 yrs of imprisonment took every chance he cud hv got during that period..dats not proper Justice…even 10 yrs was enough..bt 44 yrs…cruelty

  86. Epic Madness Reply

    What’s the music at 6:00

  87. Arthur Rizky Reply

    2:11 song?

  88. The GoldenBoy 01 Reply

    Man he looks calm but I can’t imagine what he went through and what kind of nightmares he have at night… may Allah give him a good life

  89. KTMBANDITS Reply

    Now this man is probably in iso no

  90. Aaron Tan Reply

    It’s like he took a time machine from the 70s

  91. Hellhounds04 Reply

    This man is like a time capsule.

  92. Spoopzter Reply

    0:47 bro that guy top right looks like snoop dog

  93. savagex466 Reply

    If he likes Skippy … He would love Adams wayy more.

  94. buddy love 1 Reply

    Wonder what happened to the people in the prison photos,the other crimms

  95. Senne Reinders Reply

    Stolen video.

  96. Suhaid Pm Reply

    And Safe you Move. 😍

  97. Gtr Pro Gaming Edits Reply

    This man litteraly hot the same sentence as 6ix9ine

  98. Ugbad M Reply

    It must have been so scary for him to come out knowing there will be no family are friend waiting for him.
    I would definitely be!

  99. Joseph Diaz Reply

    Rip that toys r us all those memories

  100. Jonas VanKarte Reply

    Does he have a go fund me I want to donate some money??

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