Thirteen years ago, at the age of 16, Cyntoia Brown shot and killed 43-year-old Johnny Mitchell Allen. Cyntoia allegedly randomly met Allen in a restaurant parking lot and agreed to return to his home with him in order to exchange sex for money. Allen was showing off his many guns to Brown and she became paranoid. As he lay in bed next to her she shot him in the back of the head. This is one version of the story.
Other accounts state that Brown was being forced into prostitution by a pimp named “Kutthroat” whom many reports refer to as her boyfriend. At the time of the murder, Brown was living with the pimp in a motel room and was allegedly sold to Allen as a sex slave after being repeatedly drugged and raped for profit for at least a week.
Cyntoia’s mother admitted to abusing drugs and alcohol heavily during pregnancy. When Cyntoia was two-years-old her mother gave her up for adoption. She spent her younger years in and out of the custody of The Department of Children’s Services and was raped and sexually assaulted numerous times.
After the murder, Brown was charged and tried as an adult. The prosecution argued for life without parole due to the fact that even though she was a child and there were mitigating circumstances, violent people needed to be held responsible for their actions regardless of the circumstances that caused them to become violent. Brown allegedly robbed Allen after the murder fleeing in his car with his wallet and belongings, this was also an argument in the case of the prosecution.
Whichever side of this story is true, one thing here is for sure. Our system in general, and more importantly our justice system failed this young girl as it does so many of our children. Our system didn’t just fail her it sought her out and devoured her like a hungry lion, she never stood a chance.
Brown is currently serving her life sentence at The Tenessee State Prison for Women. This is a private prison operated and administered by Corrections Corporation of America under contract to the Tennessee Department of Correction. CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and The GEO group which is another privatized corrections company bring in a combined 3.3 billion a year in revenue as of 2015.
Most private prison contracts require that state and local governments maintain a certain occupancy rate, usually 90% or more. If this rate is not maintained, in most cases, taxpayers still pay for the empty beds. Over the last ten to fifteen years the federal prison population in the United States has more than doubled. The CCA and GEO have quietly lobbied and donated to keep prisons and their pockets nice and full.
Cyntoia Brown doesn’t need to be in prison for life, she needs rehabilitation for life. She needs security, stability, encouragement, and a fair chance at a normal life. She’s been in the system since she was a child, the system failed to protect her, and then the system sent her to prison for profit.
Brown has been called a “model prisoner” she received her associate degree in 2015 while in prison from Lipscomb University. She has also been said to be a mentor and advisor to the other young women at the prison.
Recently numerous celebrities such as Rhianna, TI, and La La Anthony have shown their support with the hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown. Kim Kardashian-West reportedly even went as far as to contact Brown’s lawyers to see how she could help.
Even though it seems like a losing battle when it comes to minorities, immigrants, and the poor, we must never give up the fight for justice. Cyntoia currently has a legal team working on getting her a new trial, she will not be eligible for parole until she is sixty-nine-years old.