January 7, 2019

Justice is here for Cyntoia Brown.

Cyntoia Brown was 16 years old when she was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Johnny Allen — a man who'd bought her for sex. She says she was afraid he was going to shoot her. She had her own gun, and after he fell asleep, she shot him in the back of the head. She then took some money and two guns from his home, and fled.

Today, Governor Bill Haslam (R) has granted Ms. Brown full clemency. She will walk out of prison on August 7, 2019 — exactly 15 years after the day she was arrested. Prior to Allen buying her for sex, she had been forced into prostitution by a pimp named Kut Throat, who'd raped and assaulted her repeatedly. None of that had been taken into consideration, apparently, when she was sentenced as an adult at 16, and given life in prison. That meant she was not eligible for parole for 51 years — at which point she would be 67. Where, in this universe, does that constitute justice?

Many have lobbied on Ms. Brown's behalf — activists, regular citizens, celebrities and politicians, but previous requests of clemency have been rejected. As Gov. Haslam nears the end of his term, though, this was a case he felt merited her release. Finally. In announcing his commutation of Ms. Brown's sentence, Gov. Haslam's office released the a statement explaining his reasoning and the conditions of her release. From that statement:

“This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” Haslam
said. “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.”

Many on Twitter and Facebook asked why she was not being released immediately — why is she still to be in prison for 7 more months? The answer is that she must undergo a re-entry/transition program before she is released. The goal of this is to help her cope, and give her the tools to deal with coming back into society from prison life. A portion of Ms. Brown's statement confirmed that:

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.

This all is wonderful news for Ms. Brown, and so many who were and are pulling for her. This was absolutely the right thing for Governor Bill Haslam to do. We're not wrong to feel justice has come to her. We're also not wrong, however, to feel that it has taken much too long for justice to arrive.

(P.S. On a sideways tangent, I wonder when national news will decide to mention this story. The news broke at 12:05 EST. Why the wait? )

(P.P.S. Author Edit: We have our answer. The NBC video above appeared roughly 8-9 hours after the news broke. My question stands. Why the wait?)

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