MUSKEGON, Mich. — On Thursday, Michael Thompson was released from prison after 24 years behind bars, serving over half of a 40-year-minimum sentence handed down in 1996.
Thompson was serving up to 60 years for gun possession that arose from the sale of three pounds of marijuana to a confidential informant in 1994.
Originally in Muskegon's prison, he was recently moved to Jackson over COVID-19 concerns.
He walked out of prison Thursday morning just after 4 a.m. to his waiting family.
“I felt numb for a long time...I felt nothing," Thompson told FOX 17 in a sit-down interview Friday morning. “I wasn’t a bad guy, like they were trying to make it. All I did was three pounds of marijuana... Who did that hurt? I didn’t kill no one.”
Thompson has become a symbol for prison reform in recent years, with groups like Last Prisoner Project advocating for his release.
“I didn't really know what freedom was all about, you know, but now I do… I'm so happy," Thompson said.
One of the first things he said he ate after leaving prison was an egg and sausage sandwich. "I aint had no real eggs and meat in many years," he said Friday.
But he says what he is really looking forward to are oranges, fish, tomatoes, and cucumbers with salt and pepper.
"I know, it sounds like a broken record, man. You probably heard it already... But, that's all I want," Thompson said. "I would love to have my little granddaughter fix it for me, make it so special."
Family is his primary focus right now, but Thompson says he also wants to continue advocating for prison reform.
"There's a lot of talking about prison reform, but no action,” he said. “When is somebody just gonna use common sense, man, and just say... prisons are for locking people up for hurting people, doing bad things, real bad things. Marijuana... who has marijuana killed?”
Thompson considers himself blessed for all those cheering him on from outside the prison walls, but says there are plenty of others locked up in similar situations, without the sort of spotlight his case has drawn.
“All I want to do is just give my voice for the voiceless, those who have no voice to speak about injustice that's going on around this country, not just in Michigan, where I'm from, all over the United States," Thompson said. "This prison reform is broken, someone needs to fix it.”