Imagine being removed from society since the mid-1970s, and then dropped into a world where you’re surrounded by iPhones and Gatorade.

It’s the life of New Yorker Otis Johnson who was recently released after spending 44 years in prison. He was 25 when his sentence started and 69 when he was released.

The newly-free senior let an Al Jazeera English camera crew follow him around New York, where he’s had to adjust many things that Americans take for granted, like endless food options, technology, and exponentially higher prices.


On the outside, he quickly realized the world was a very different place – downright futuristic compared to the world he left behind back in 1975.

From the headphone-wearing denizens of New York City “talking to themselves” like secret agents on their iPhones, the fact you can buy peanut butter and jelly in the same tub, or videos playing through Manhattan windows — daily life is mesmerizing for Johnson, where simple pleasures come from watching people in Times Square or meditating in the park at dusk.

You can watch the entire video below, or read Al Jazeera’s in-depth interview with him here.