Cyntoia Brown Granted Clemency

After serving fifteen years Brown is being released

Maya Black

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Cyntoia Brown was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a man who had paid her for sex when she was sixteen, and after serving fifteen years in prison she has been granted clemency.

Brown’s case drew the attention of many including a U.S. congressman, Tennessee lawmakers, and celebrities because of her age and the traumatic circumstances surrounding the crime. It was argued that Brown had killed Johnny Mitchell Allen in order to rob him, but in light of how Brown had been manipulated into prostitution, her young age, and her reformation in prison she was granted clemency.

“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life. Transformation should be accompanied by hope,” said Gov. Bill Haslam. Brown was one of the estimated 40.3 million victims of sex trafficking a year, but even still the transcripts of her original trial and peppered with the term “teen prostitute.” Now we know better, and since Brown’s trial, the juvenile sentencing guidelines have been amended. Courts today would view her as an exploited child and as a victim.

“Well we know today that there’s no such thing as a teen prostitute…because this teen may think that she decided this was her idea to be raped multiple times a day and give money to someone else, it’s pretty clear there’s an adult behind that who’s manipulating and exploiting her,” said Derri Smith, founder and CEO of nonprofit End Slavery Tennessee. Brown testified that she was scared for her life by Allen’s behavior, and the possible reaction of her pimp (nicknamed “Cut Throat”) if she returned empty-handed.

Brown’s story of being manipulated into sex trafficking is unfortunately not an unusual one, but her redemption and release is still a case for hope. While in prison she received her associate’s degree Lipscomb University and she is now working towards her bachelor’s degree. She’s also been working with Tennessee’s juvenile justice system to counsel young people at risk. “I learned that my life was- and is- not over,” said Brown. “I can create opportunities where I can actually help people.”

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