Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam just used his executive power to grant Cyntoia Brown clemency. Brown was incarcerated for killing her would-be rapist in 2004, when she was 16. Without Haslam’s action, the survivor of sex trafficking would not have been eligible for parole until the age of 67. She will now be released from her cell in the Tennessee Prison for Women on August 7, 2019, after the completion of 15 years behind bars.
Haslam’s statement on the clemency, posted today (January 7):
This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case. 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.
Those conditions include ten years on parole, during which she cannot violate any state or federal laws. She will also have to comply with a release plan approved by the Tennessee Department of Correction, and meet conditions set for education, employment, counseling and community engagement. The governor’s statement adds that, “She will complete re-entry programming prior to her release from custody in August in order to facilitate a successful transition to the community.”
Local station WSMV shared Brown’s full statement on her clemency:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The news sparked rejoicing—and reminders of how this young survivor ended up incarcerated—on Twitter.
I’m crying. Cyntoia will be free. She should be free tomorrow, without parole. But at least she will be out of in 2019. Blessed are the freedom fighters who led the movement to free her. BLESSED. https://t.co/PW1uoP0cjL— Chanda Prescod-Weinstein ??♀️ ??? (@IBJIYONGI) January 7, 2019
Justice has finally been served: #CyntoiaBrown has been granted clemency. This victory belongs to Cyntoia Brown & to the Tennessee human trafficking activists, especially Black women, who refused to concede injustice & instead organized to create change. https://t.co/ANC0aOXj5N— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) January 7, 2019
This is why Cyntoia Brown was also a victim.— Natasha S. Alford ??+??✊????? (@NatashaSAlford) January 7, 2019
And how victim-blamers sound every time they ask, “So why didn’t you just leave?” pic.twitter.com/rnSx4CsahW