Tennessee governor Bill Haslam grants Cyntoia Brown clemency after serving 15 years
The Tennessee governor’s office has just granted Cyntoia Brown clemency after serving a 15 year prison sentence for killing Johnny Mitchell Allen, who allegedly trafficked her for sex when she was 16 years old.In a statement, Gov. Haslam said, “This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case. 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.”
Brown will be released on a decade long parole on August 7th. Brown’s case has erupted national conversations on the violent injustice many Black and Brown sex trafficking survivors must endure, especially for child victims. While many Black women and sex trafficking survivors organized for Brown to be granted clemency, in late 2018, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled she must serve at least 51 years to be considered for release.
Tennessee’s harsh sentencing for Brown’s self-defense has inspired a 2011 documentary on Brown’s life and her experiences as a rape survivor. As such, Tennessee juvenile sentencing law has been greatly amended so children and teenagers are not tried as adults.
CNN reports that their affiliate WZTV anchor Stacy Case explained, “If Cyntoia Brown were tried today, legal experts say she would not have been tried in the same way. Our courts today would view her as a child sex slave… she would be viewed as a victim.”
Cyntoia Brown’s clemency received much praise online. A number of politicians and celebrities applauded the governor’s decision and spoke to the violence and injustice many sex trafficking survivors experience. Stacey Abrams, Representative Ayanna Pressley, and Surviving R. Kelly executive producer dream Hampton all congratulated Brown via Twitter.
Justice has finally been served: #CyntoiaBrown has been granted clemency. This victory belongs to Cyntoia Brown & to the Tennessee human trafficking activists, especially Black women, who refused to concede injustice & instead organized to create change. https://t.co/ANC0aOXj5N
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) January 7, 2019
Justice for #CyntoiaBrown, today. Justice for all, someday. May our survivor tribe find some solace in today's decision and remain steadfast in our commitment to survivor-led policy change. My statement on today's clemency decision: pic.twitter.com/VtalrFe2zR
— Rep Ayanna Pressley (@RepPressley) January 8, 2019
#CyntoiaBrown receiving clemency is the result of Black Women's organizing. Thank you! Especially @prisonculture
— dream hampton (@dreamhampton) January 7, 2019