By: Aleah Shell
In 2004, 16-year-old, Cyntoia Brown was charged as an adult and sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder and aggravated robbery against her own rapist.
Brown told the courts it was an act of self-defense after being forced into prostitution. She began resisting and saw her rapist, Johnny Mitchell Allen, reach for a gun that she knew was in his cabinet because she had seen it before, and automatically thought he would kill her. She then went into her purse, pulled out her gun and shot him. The defense argued it wasn’t self-defense because she stole his wallet after killing him.
Her sentence originally required her to serve the minimum of 51 years in prison before having the opportunity of parole, but after her story hit headlines and the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown started trending on social media, a fight for her justice began. She received support from blogs and A-list celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, as well as many activists who believed the sentencing was unfair.
After doing 15 years in prison, and now 31 years old, Cyntoia Brown has been released from prison this morning (8.7) due to being granted clemency in January by then Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. “I look forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation,” Brown said about being released from prison.
While in prison Brown has gained her associate degree from Lipscomb University and her Bachelor's degree in the Tennessee Prison for Woman.
Spending the rest of her teenage years and all of her 20s in prison she learned a lot about keeping hope alive while doing her time. "I learned that my life was and is not over," Brown said in her documentary, "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story."