Cyntoia Brown has been granted clemency by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and she will be released from prison on August 7. Brown, now 30, has served 15 years in state prison after being convicted of killing a man when she was 16. Brown was a victim of sex trafficking and the man she killed had paid to be with her, according to Brown’s advocates. Haslam, who will be leaving office this month, commuted Brown’s sentence to parole, giving her an early release. She would have otherwise had to serve 51 years in prison before becoming parole eligible.
“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,” Haslam said in a statement. “Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”
According to The Tennessean, Haslam’s order requires Brown to participate in regular counseling sessions and to perform 50 hours of community service, including working with at-risk youth. She will also be required to get a job. Brown will remain on parole for 10 years.
Haslam was pushed to grant clemency to Brown through a campaign that included celebrities, social justice advocates, lawyers and social media users. The story gained national attention in 2018 when celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna began raising awareness to Brown’s case. Her story had previously been told in a documentary, “Me Facing Life,” which came out in 2011.
In a statement from her attorneys, Brown said, “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.”
Brown was convicted of killing 43-year-old Johnny Michael Allen in 2004. She was sentenced to 51 years to life in prison on a murder charge. Brown had met Allen in Nashville and he paid $150 to have sex with her. While they were at his home, Brown shot Allen in the head and fled in his truck with $172 in cash and several firearms. She then drove to a motel to meet her pimp.
Brown has been serving her sentence at the Tennessee Prison for Women. She would have been there at least until she was 67, if not for the commutation. While in prison, Brown completed her GED and then graduated from Lipscomb University with an associate’s degree.
“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,” Brown said in a statement. “Thank you to Dr. Richard Goode and Dr. KAte Watkins and all of you at Lipscomb University for opening up a whole new world for me. I have one course left to finish my Bachelor’s degree, which I will complete in May 2019.”
Brown added, “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. Thank you to my family for being a backbone these past 14 years. I am also 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. 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.”