Cyntoia Brown's Freedom Comes With Strings

Image: Associated Press

Cyntoia Brown, who served 15 years in prison for killing a man who solicited her for sex when she was 16-years-old, is now free. Brown, who was a victim of trafficking, has maintained that she was acting in self-defense.

In January, Brown was granted clemency by Tennessee’s outgoing governor Bill Haslam, the result of a grassroots campaign to free Brown that drew support from celebrities like Rihanna, LeBron James, and Kim Kardashian. The case has also highlighted the injustice of incarcerating people who have survived sexual violence and abuse. “[I]mposing 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 at the time.

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Yet it’s a partial freedom—Brown, now 31, will remain on parole for ten years, and is required to find employment, attend regular counseling sessions, and regularly perform community service, a process that Colby Lenz of Survived and Punished described to Jezebel in 2018 as one that “can trap you in prison” even after being released.

Brown, in a statement she released this week, thanked her supporters and wrote that she plans on “using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation.” In the fall, she is coming out with a memoir, Free Cyntoia, that will focus on her “early struggles and the improbable events leading up to her release.”

Brown’s full statement is below:

While first giving honor to God who made all of this possible, I would also like to thank my many supporters who have spoken on my behalf and prayed for me. I’m blessed to have a very supportive family and friends to support me in the days to come. I look forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation. I thank Governor and First Lady Haslam for their vote of confidence in me and with the Lord’s help I will make them as well as the rest of my supporters proud.

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