This story is one that meets at the intersection of sex-trafficking and mass incarceration. Cyntoia Brown has been imprisoned since she was 16 years old in 2004, during which time she was charged with first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree felony murder and tried as an adult. Although she was a teenager, she was tried as an adult and was sentenced to life in prison in 2006.
Imagine being a 16-year-old who is being sex-trafficked, emotionally and physically abused by your pimp “Kut-Throat”, and after being continuously drugged and raped by various men over the course of several days you finally decide to fight back. In short that is the story of Cyntoia Brown. Now 30, she was a 16-year-old victim of sex trafficking in Tennessee in 2004 when she fatally shot Johnny Mitchell Allen, a 43-year-old real estate agent who solicited sex from her. Brown says she killed Allen in self-defense because she believed he was reaching for a gun under the bed.
Cyntoia Brown will not be eligible for parole until 2057; she will be 69. Let’s take a second to reflect on all that she would have lost by that time. She was robbed of events most teenage girls look forward to such as prom, she won’t have a chance to have her dream wedding or start her own family, she may never have a chance to make a name for herself and leave her mark on the world. Or will she?
In Tennessee, if a minor is charged with first-degree murder they can face two types of sentencing options. They can either be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, or life with the possibility of parole only after serving 51 years of their life sentence. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled this month that Cyntoia Brown will serve the latter of the two options. Let’s be clear, the victim of sex-trafficking, rape and other forms of abuse will have to serve 51 years of her life behind bars for defending herself against a pedophile. Cyntoia Brown is not just a victim of her past, she is a victim of the present day justice system.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s term ends on January 19, 2019. Haslem is still weighing clemency for Cyntoia. Governor Haslam holds the key that could free Cyntoia. We urge you to challenge Governor Haslem to take a stance against what is known to be a rigged and unfair justice system and give Cyntoia Brown a second chance at life.
“The Tennessee State Youth and College Division will challenge the Governor to make the fair decision for victims of violence and sex trafficking by granting clemency to this woman who represents hundreds of other women stuck in the cycle looking for a way out,” said David A. Johnson, Tennessee Youth and College Division President.
Contact your senator today, urging them to request Governor Haslam grants clemency for Cyntoia Brown before January 19, 2019. Take a stand with the NAACP Youth and College Division for a National Week of Action, ending with #CyntoiaDay on Friday, December 21, 2018.