The road for compassion and justice has finally culminated in clemency for Cyntoia Brown, granted by Bill Haslam, governor of Tennessee. This victorious outcome comes to Cyntoia Brown after serving almost 15 years of a proposed 67-year sentence for first-degree murder after being found guilty of murdering real estate agent, Johnny Allen who sexually enslaved and abused her at the age of 16 when she was a victim of. The conditions and evidence leading to her conviction were contentious at the least and brought the seriousness of juvenile reform for young adults being incarcerated as adults under tenuous situations under fire. The major argument was that Cynthia should have been charged with second-degree murder with a sentence of 15 years opposed to first-degree murder.
Many would argue that her problematic childhood and race played against her in her adjudication regardless of the legal representation working diligently on her behalf. It came across for many that she was a drain on the system and not worth saving or redemption, regardless of the horrific and draconian events leading her to commit murder (note: murdering anyone unless defending one’s life is unacceptable). Regardless of how one may personal feel, her clemency is a victory for survivors of sexual trafficking, which is more prevalent in this country than many people realize.
But there has always been an active plethora of loyal and compassionate supporters throughout her nearly 15 years of incarceration advocating for her release. She would have had to serve 51 years before she was eligible for parole if she hadn’t been given clemency. It is a reminder that, hope, patience and perseverance can bring about true justice in the end.
However when one looks at Cyntoia’s case, you are visited with numerous factors that inundate your consciousness making you think about the road to acquiring fairness and equity. Many have been unfairly sentenced or incarcerated and fallen between the cracks. This is a feeling that is held by many people of color. The reality that exists is that a sizeable amount of those imprisoned are innocent or have received excessive sentences not fitting the crime. All too often this feeds into the disproportionate number of African Americans or people of color making up our penal system.
Make no mistake: privatized prisons’ primary role is to make money. Bodies are needed to fill the cells. There are laws in effect that penalize African Americans or people of color. Make no mistake that your legal representation is often affected by your social-economic status. Those with less are more vulnerable to questionable legal representation. And make no mistake that the legal justice system is flawed. It needs an overhaul when five people can commit the exact same crime under the same circumstance and receive completely different consequences.
Regardless of the visible flaws and practices of our judicial system, our legal system (regardless of its failings) is arguably the best in the world. But this rationalization doesn’t excuse the fact that only when you own up to and admit you shortcomings can effective and productive change occur.
To find justice for Cyntoia, it took a sundry of lawyers, activists, organizations, and celebrities advocating for fairness and compassion for her plight. She had support from celebrities such as Lebron James, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian. This goes to show that those in the national spotlight can be effective, using their influence to help bring about social change.
Regardless of how one may feel about Tennessee’s Gov. Haslam, he showed that compassion and empathy are still virtues worth resurrecting when guided by one’s moral compass. A moral compass should overrule or surpass one’s political affiliation or loyalty to a party.
Cyntoia Brown is scheduled to be released Aug.7, 2019 which will fulfill the requirements of 15 years if she had been imprisoned for second degree murder. While imprisoned, she has been a model prisoner, redeeming herself by acquiring her GED, an associate’s degree, and has a bachelor’s degree pending from Belmont College before her release. She has vowed to spend the rest of her life in service to helping those surviving victims of sexual trafficking. A Franklin, Tenn. family will take her in and house her. She has many mentors and benefactors (primarily Bishop Walker and the Mt. Zion Church) awaiting her release by offering her jobs, emotional support, and spiritual guidance during her transitional, 10-year probationary period.
Congratulations to Cyntoia Brown for her victory following a tumultuous road, which culminated in victory. Sometimes the road is long and uncertain, but perseverance can bring about celebration.