Child Sex Trafficking Survivor Cyntoia Brown Must Serve 51 Years in Prison for Self-Defense

Please be aware that some of the details included below may be disturbing for some readers.

Cyntoia Brown grew up in a Tennessee home where she and other women of color were routinely beaten, raped and threatened with death. After finally having enough, Brown ran away — only to be picked up by a man who would frequently assault her, in addition to selling her for sex. The man, who called himself “Kutthroat,” threatened to end Brown’s life — as well as her mother’s — if she ever tried to escape.

When Brown was 16, she was sent to the home of Johnny Mitchell Allen, a 43-year-old white realtor who “purchased” her for a sex. As Brown recalls, Allen warned her that he was an ex-military sharpshooter. At one point, Brown claims, Allen violently grabbed her and began to reach for something to the side of the bed. Believing that he was searching for a gun, Brown quickly retrieved her own firearm and shot Allen dead.

Brown was then arrested and charged with prostitution and murder as an adult, despite the fact that she was only 16. In 2004, she was convicted and given a life sentence. This ruling also prohibited her from seeking parole until the age of 69.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to give life sentences without parole to minors. In light of this decision, Brown sought to have her sentence overturned or reduced. However, this month the Tennessee Supreme Court unanimously ruled against  her lawsuit. The court ultimately gave Brown the option for parole — 51 years from now.

While in prison, Brown has earned an associate degree from Lipscomb University, and she wants to find ways to help create opportunities for her fellow inmates.

The United States, by and large, still treats sex workers as criminals rather than victims of exploitation and abuse, as is often the reality. Compound that with the fact that Brown is also a black woman, and the system is heavily stacked against her. Minors of color are disproportionately charged and sentenced as adults in many states. And, in general, marginalized defendants are more likely to be given life sentences.

Brown’s situation is a poignant example of the flawed American criminal justice system, which is still all too eager to punish people of color, victims of abuse and even minors. In what world does a teenage victim of sex trafficking deserve to spend her life behind bars for an act of self-defense? That’s the case in Tennessee, it would seem.

In a rational world, Brown would have gotten the help she so clearly needs and deserves.

Take Action!

Despite the ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court, Cyntoia Brown’s fight for justice does not have to end here. Gov. Bill Haslam has the legal authority to commute Brown’s outrageous sentence — but by not doing so, he’s deliberately punishing her in a senselessly cruel and unusual manner.

Add your name to this Care2 petition and call on Gov. Haslam commute Brown’s sentence immediately! She has already spent 14 years — almost half of her life — behind bars for a crime committed as a minor in self-defense.

Concerned about an issue? Want to raise awareness about an injustice? Join your fellow Care2 users by learning how to make your own petition and make your voice heard today!

 

Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes/Flickr

68 comments

Leo C
Leo C28 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Chad A
Chad A29 days ago

Thank you.

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Latoya B
Latoya Babout a month ago

A child killed a pedophile slave trader and she's treated like the villain.

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Clare O
Clare Oabout a month ago

ok

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Clare O
Clare Oabout a month ago

seems all wrong

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Clare O
Clare Oabout a month ago

th

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Dennis H
Dennis Habout a month ago

Had a white girl done the same thing to her black rapist there would be parades and scholarships in her honor.

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Jack Y
Jack Yabout a month ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Yabout a month ago

thanks

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John J
John Jabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

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