WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 8, 2019) — Today, the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) lauds the decision by outgoing Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown.
Brown, now 30, was sentenced to prison 15 years ago for first degree murder. She was only 16 years old when she was forced into sex trafficking by a man whom she believed was going to kill her. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled recently in December 2018 to uphold the original sentence that Ms. Brown serve 51 years before she would be eligible for parole.
“We applaud Governor Haslam for recognizing Ms. Brown’s extraordinary educational growth and rehabilitation in prison, despite being a victim of childhood sex trafficking and born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder,” said BWHI President and CEO, Linda Goler Blount. Every day, Black women in the U.S. face higher rates of sexual violence, rape and homicide than their white counterparts. “While we believe that the passage of the recent criminal justice reform legislation is an important first step, Ms. Brown’s story reminds us all that there is much more work to be done around mass incarceration and violence against women particularly,” Blount says.
Ms. Brown’s case was cast into the national spotlight, thanks to a 2011 documentary that garnered high profile celebrity attention. However, we know that there are millions of children across the U.S. and the world who are forced into the horrific life of sex trafficking and abuse each year. They don’t have advocates or documentaries. Our young girls literally find themselves with no way out, except into into the prison system.
“There are so many Cyntoia Browns who no one hears about or fights for,” says Blount. “BWHI will continue to be a voice for criminal justice reform, as we push for protections for Black women and girls who are victimized by sex traffickers and subjected to violence and abuse.”