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The freed man

Calvin Johnson was 25 when he was arrested for rape and sentenced to life in prison in the Georgia state penitentiary. That was in 1983. Sixteen years later, DNA evidence proved him innocent and he walked out of jail. The state eventually awarded him $500,000. Since his release in 1999, Johnson has married and his wife Sabrina has given birth to a baby girl, his first child. Today, at 43, he owns a four-bedroom house in Jonesboro, Georgia, and he works as a station manager for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

Back before I went [to prison] there were cell phones, but only a few people had them. Now, everybody's got one. Teenagers have them. If you don't have one, people say, "What's wrong with you?"

Now, you've got the Internet. I never really liked computers, but it's necessary for you to know [about them] because all companies these days have them. You can do so many things these days with computers. You can send e-mail all over the world, and it's something you have to learn. It's amazing.

Prison is designed for punishment. It's designed to tear you down, to destroy your dignity and your pride. They want to be in total control of you. They don't even want you to think your own thoughts. They want to do all the thinking for you -- when to sleep, when to get up, when to shower, when to eat, what you do, what you can't do, who you can see, when you watch TV, when you go to bed.

I would never allow them to have my mind. Sure you have rules. ... [B]ut I demanded a freedom to believe, a freedom to dream, a freedom to conduct myself in a respectful manner. Therefore, even though I was in prison, I felt that I was respected by prisoners and staff alike.

I did time the way a prisoner was supposed to do time. I wasn't a snitch. I didn't get involved in gambling schemes or the thievery schemes .... I basically was my own man and I showed people respect and I demanded a certain amount of respect.

To tell you the truth, I like Clinton. I wasn't into politics that much, [but] I felt like when he went through his little scandal, he tried to weasel his way and not admit anything. At the same time, I say, "Why is everyone pointing their fingers at this guy? They're probably guilty of the same thing. He's just a man." They tried to disrupt the running of the government of the United States by worrying about this small thing. Like they say, "[Let] he who has not sinned cast the first stone."

But I think Clinton was a good president. The economy was doing well for quite a while, people were making money, jobs were increasing. Right now, things are starting to get worse. We're just having a turnover in office. Who knows if the economy is going to get better or worse or what. We do know that when Reagan was president and the other Bush was president, the economy wasn't doing that great. So who knows?

I wish Clinton could continue to be president a little bit longer.

Things are going very well for me. I would like to move up in my job into management. I would like to get more involved in ministry. God has his own way and his own time. I see in the next five or 10 years things opening up for me.

I want to get a book published about my life. I'm writing it with someone and we have a rough draft, but we're re-writing it. I hope it will be inspiring. Not only that, maybe it will be a religious experience that will draw [the reader] closer to the kingdom of God. I would also like to do more public speaking. And as I become more advanced on computers, maybe I'll start a Web site and share a message or have a prayer, promote my book.

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