Child s*x trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown was recently released from prison at the age of 31. Brown was originally sentenced to life in prison for killing one of the men who solicited her for s*x when she was 16.
According to court documents, she was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in 2006 for killing 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen, who had picked her up and driven her to his home after agreeing to pay her $150 for s*x.
The girl had been sexually assaulted and forced into prostitution by a man known as “Cut Throat”. During the appeal process, she admitted she killed Allen because she thought he was reaching for a gun.
She then fled with Allen’s guns and money. She drove away in his pickup truck. Yet, prosecutors disputed her claim of self-defense, arguing that she had intended to rob Allen. She was then convicted and sentenced to life in prison over the killing.
Human rights advocates pointed out that her case emphasized the need to fix the nation’s criminal justice system. She would not have been eligible for parole until 2055 under the original sentence.
However, human rights groups started a mass public campaign demanding justice under the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown, in the midst of the #MeToo movement and a broader push for criminal justice reform, thousands of Americans signed petitions and wrote letters, and celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West helped bring attention to her case, so then-Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) commuted her sentence in January.
Online racial justice organization Color of Change on Twitter wrote that the victory belongs to Cyntoia, her community, and to the thousands of people who sought justice.
The group added that her story helps the public to catch a glimpse into the lives of the thousands of women and girls locked up behind bars due to survival strategies, as well as the way justice is meted out.
In 2018, David A. Love noted:
“A virtual life sentence for former child s*x slave Cyntoia Brown stands in marked contrast to the light slap on the wrist for billionaire serial abuser Jeffrey Epstein. But it is not surprising in a society that treats people differently based on race, class, and gender.”
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law president and executive director Kristen Clarke tweeted that we need to take more action to protect young, vulnerable s*x trafficking victims, as they deserve support and safety, not incarceration.
After spending over 14 years behind bars, Brown stated that she is looking forward to using her own experience to help other women and girls in the same or similar situation.
Brown earned her GED and an associate degree while in prison, and she has thanked all those who supported her.
However, she remains under state control, and according to the Tennessee Department of Correction, she will be on parole for 10 years, during which time she is obliged to maintain employment or enrollment in classes, attend regular counseling, and do community service.
The additional decade probation is considered “excessive” by the ACLU, adding that she never should have been sentenced so harshly in the first place.
Her publisher announced that Brown will release a memoir in October, that will describe her traumatic childhood, the events that led to the murder conviction, her transformation behind bars, and eventual release.