Cyntoia Brown needs support, not 51 years in prison

Photo: AP

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently confirmed that Cyntoia Brown must serve 51 years in prison for shooting and killing a man in 2004 when she was just 16.

News stories and social media have widely reported and shared Brown’s story. Many have compared her harsh sentence to lesser ones for white juveniles since the state of Tennessee first tried her case more than 10 years ago. The decision was the result of an appeal to her original sentence, submitted because it is now unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life in prison.

Johnny Allen, 43, solicited sex in exchange for money from Brown, who was 16 at the time. Brown argues that she feared for her life and thought Allen was going to shoot her, so she shot and killed him in self-defence, according to court records. Despite these details, the state of Tennessee still tried her as an adult and convicted her of first-degree murder.

There is so much wrong about this story, which underlies the treatment of young, poor girls and women living in unstable situations. Many of these youth are regularly exposed to drugs, violence and multiple forms of trauma...

— Jerry Flores, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto (with permission of the

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