Cyntoia Brown was only 16 when she was sentenced to life in prison after shooting the 43-year-old man who tried to rape her.
By next Wednesday, 31-year-old Cyntoia Brown will be freed from prison. After spending 15 years in Tennessee Prison for Women, Brown’s sentence was commuted by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam in Januaryand she will be able to fully enjoy her freedom on August 7.
“I am thankful for all the support, prayers, and encouragement I have received. We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings. The Lord has held my hand this whole time and I would have never made it without Him. Let today be a testament to His Saving Grace,” Brown said in a statement.
“Thank you to my family for being a backbone these past 14 years. I am thankful to my lawyers and their staffs, and all the others who, for the last decade have freely given of their time and expertise to help me get to this day. I love all of you and will be forever grateful.”
Brown’s case made huge waves in 2017 when celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian spoke about how tragic and unfair her story was. A PBS documentary kicked off years of advocacy for Brown’s release.
In January, Haslam admitted that the sentence was too harsh and granted her clemency before he left office.
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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! #FREECYNTOIABROWN #HowManyMore
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“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,” Haslam said.
Brown was a runaway who had been repeatedly abused physically and sexually by men in her life. At the time, she was living with a pimp who was sexually assaulting her while forcing her to prostitute herself for money. She was sold in a Burger King parking lot to Nashville realtor Johnny Allen, who was acting erratically and repeatedly approached her menacingly after raping her in his home.
Allen repeatedly showed her all of the guns in his home and, fearing for her life, she shot Allen in the head as he stood over her. Brown repeatedly said she was acting in self-defense.
Despite being underage and having a history of sexual assault, local news outlets at the time portrayed Brown as been dishonest while trying to protect Allen’s reputation. She was given a life sentence in 2004 and subsequent court cases repeatedly shot down her attempts to reduce her sentence.
Brown was only 16 when she was sentenced to life in prison after shooting the 43-year-old man
As more people heard about what actually happened to Brown, dozens of internet campaigns were started to help secure her release from prison. Activists were initially worried because Tennessee’s ultra-conservative Supreme Court decided to uphold her sentence, saying she had to serve five decades to be eligible for parole.
“Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me,” she said in a statement in January.
“I want to thank those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who saw something in me worth salvaging, especially Ms. Connie Seabrooks for allowing me to participate in the Lipscomb LIFE Program. It changed my life. I am also grateful to those at the Tennessee Department of Corrections who will work with me over the next several months to help me in the transition from prison to the free world.”
During her time in prison, Brown has been a model citizen, even getting her Bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb University in May. There is a GoFundMe that has been started to provide Brown with financial support as she transitions out of prison life. She will remain on parole for at least another 10 years.
“With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people,” Brown said.
“My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”