Cyntoia Brown has officially been granted clemency after serving 15 years in prison. Brown was 16 years old when she was given a life sentence for killing a man who was paying her for sex.
According to Tennessean, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam said in a statement, “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. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”
Brown was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in 2006. According to the New York Times, at the time of the crime, Brown was living in a hotel with a pimp who forced her into prostitution and physically and sexually abused her. After she was picked up by a man named Johnny Allen for sex and went back to his home, she feared for her life and ended up shooting Allen in the back of the head.
Brown will be released on Aug. 7 and will be on parole for 10 years. She will be required to attend counseling sessions, perform community service, and get a job.
She released a statement through her lawyers, which said, “With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people. My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”
Brown’s case has garnered support across social media, including from celebrities. In November 2017, Rihanna posted an Instagram about Brown’s case, writing, “did we somehow change the definition of #JUSTICE along the way?? cause….. Something is horribly wrong when the system enables these rapists and the victim is thrown away for life! To each of you responsible for this child’s sentence I hope to God you don’t have children, because this could be your daughter being punished for punishing already!” and inspiring the hashtag #FREECYNTOIABROWN.
On Twitter, Kim Kardashian West wrote, “The system has failed. It’s heart breaking to see a young girl sex trafficked then when she has the courage to fight back is jailed for life! We have to do better & do what’s right. I’ve called my attorneys yesterday to see what can be done to fix this. #FreeCyntoiaBrown”