NASHVILLE, Tenn. (localmemphis) — Cyntoia Brown is a free woman exactly 15 years to the day that she was arrested.
The Tennessee Department of Corrections released Brown early Wednesday morning after former Governor Bill Haslam granted her clemency in January.
Brown was only 16-years-old when she shot and killed Jimmy Allen in Nashville in 2004. Brown claimed it was in self-defense but the lead investigator said robbery was the motive.
The 16-year-old was reportedly a victim of child sex-trafficking when she pulled the trigger. Brown later said there was nothing to justify what she did, but her case gained national attention when celebrities called for her release.
As a juvenile, Brown was given a life sentence for the murder with patrol not an option for 50 years.
In a statement on her release, Brown thanked God, former Governor Haslam and the supporters who prayed for her.
“I look forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation,” Brown said, in the release.
Prior to her release, Brown met with prison counselors to design a re-entry plan which will place her in a transition center. There, she’ll continue her college education.
Brown will remain on parole for 10 years.
Her release, Wednesday morning, made national headlines. In Memphis, Deborah Clubb, the executive director with the Memphis Area Women’s Council called Brown’s original sentencing “outrageous” and “extreme” but said it’s not unusual to the time of her sentence where she wouldn’t have been considered a victim.
“She was entrapped as a young girl in a violent sexual relationship that became criminal that became further violent by her own efforts to free herself from a situation she did not consent to,” Clubb said.
Clubb said Brown’s case is significant for other women who are pushed into criminal acts because of neglect and abuse.
“It’s important for standing as a way that all women caught in this, all of us trying to help women who are caught in these criminal justice traps, can realize that there can be justice,” she said.
Today, treatment to sex-trafficking has improved, Clubb said, but there’s still a great need to improve. Days ago, she said, they found a 14-year-old that was being trafficked in Memphis.
“It’s a warning, too, that we do all consider the background of these situations that we recognize that neglect and abuse can be what is pushing girls into these criminal settings,” she said. “It is not by their choice. They are not even grown up enough to have a brain to make those kind of choices and yet they can be brought into the criminal justice system and just get on that treadmill of incarceration and more violence.”