Cyntoia Brown is set to walk free next Wednesday, exactly eight months after former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam commuted her sentence. Brown, now 31, had been serving a life sentence for the murder of a 43-year-old man who solicited sex from her when she was 16 years old. Her case gained national attention after the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled last December that she would have to serve 51 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
As part of the terms of her commuted sentence, Brown will have to report to a parole officer regularly for the next decade. She is also required to stay employed, participate in counseling, and perform community service with at-risk youth.
Brown has since then said she shot Allen in self-defense. She was not allowed to testify at her original trial, which meant that evidence of her traumatic childhood history, such as her time under the care of the state Department of Children’s Services, and her severe neurodevelopmental disorder wasn’t presented. The then-teenager was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences.
Brown was the subject of a PBS series titled Sentencing Children and months after it aired, celebrities starting advocating for her release on Twitter. Rihanna shared Brown’s story in a post on Instagram and wrote that something was “horribly wrong” when a system enabled rapists and threw victims away for life.
“To each of you responsible for this child’s sentence I hope to God you don’t have children, because this could be your daughter being punished for punishing already!” Rihanna wrote.’
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