Cyntoia Brown, Released from Prison, Plans to Use Her Experience to Help Women

Cyntoia Brown was released from the Tennessee Prison for Women on August 7 after serving 15 years of a life sentence for killing a man who solicited her for sex when she was just 16 years old, the Department of Corrections announced. Days before her release, Brown thanked her supporters and asked for privacy as she returned home. “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,” Brown said in a statement, according to Essence.

“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,” she added.

Brown asked for no public event or media availability on the day of her release. She said she wished for “privacy and transition” before making herself available to both the public and the media.

The 31-year-old has been described as a model inmate. She earned her GED, finished a bachelor’s degree, and mentored at-risk youth during her time in prison, NPR reported.

Brown was pushed into the limelight as her story caught increasing attention, particularly from celebrities. In 2017, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, an advocate for prison reform, offered her legal team to help free Brown, Billboard reported. When Brown was 16, she ran away from her adoptive family and lived with a man who raped her and forced her into prostitution, according to court records cited by The New York Times. A 43-year-old real estate broker named Johnny M. Allen picked Brown up at a Nashville restaurant to have sex for $150. In her testimony, Brown said that while at his home, she thought that Allen was reaching for a gun to kill her. Brown shot and killed Allen while he slept, took money, two guns, and ran, the court documents said. She was tried as an adult on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery.

A Davidson County jury convicted Brown in 2006 and sentenced her to life in prison. Her sentence meant she was not eligible for parole until 2055.

Following pressure from lawmakers, celebrities, and activists, then-Governor Bill Haslam (R) granted Brown clemency. Haslam noted that Brown had acknowledged committing “a horrific crime at the age of 16,” The New York Times reported.

“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 when he announced his decision.

In a recent interview with Today, Haslam said, “Cyntoia really had done what we hope happens when people are incarcerated.” Regarding his decision to commute Brown’s sentence, Haslam said that it was ultimately his office’s decision that “society was better off with Cyntoia out of prison.”

As part of her commutation, Brown will be under supervised parole until August 7, 2029. Brown will have to comply with an approved release plan, maintain either employment or educational enrollment, participate in regular counseling sessions, and maintain a regular commitment to community service, the Tennessee Department of Correction said in a press release on August 7.

A GoFundMe page launched in January to help Brown during her 10-year parole has raised more than $23,000, The Tennessean reported. Organizer Gabby Cannone created a “Second Chance Fund”aimed at raising $100,000. It is now under the control of Brown’s legal team, led by Charles Bone of the Nashville-based Bone McAllester Norton firm.

“While asking for financial help was not Cyntoia’s intent or interest, due to countless phone calls and GoFundMe campaigns, representatives for Cyntoia are now overseeing this fund in order to ensure all the money raised will be received by Cyntoia,” Cannone wrote on the fundraising page.

In a statement issued before Brown’s release, Bone said that he was “honored” to lead her defense team over the last nine years. According to Essence, he said that “When her story is told in much greater detail, the words which describe her success include redemption, education, rehabilitation, salvation, mercy, and freedom.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.