Check out this article by Project MI’s executive director Demetria D. Frank appearing in MLK50 that provides a bit of insight to the Cyntoia Brown case.  In a nutshell, Tennessee law makes it easy to throw youth like Brown’s life away, rather than consider the traumas justice involved youth often face and offer them hope of rehabilitation.

In 2004, Brown was convicted of first-degree murder after fatally shooting Johnny Mitchell Allen, a 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent who solicited sex from her when she was 16.  The Cyntoia Brown case went viral last week, 13 years after she was sentenced to life in prison, following this Instagram post by Rihanna:

Rihanna’s Instagram post about the Cyntoia Brown case.

The juvenile justice system was created based on the reality that youth do not have the mental capacity to fully appreciate wrongs.   As noted in the article,  “News stories have focused primarily on the plight of an unfortunate girl subjected to years of sex trafficking and other abuses, finally confronting and killing an abuser but nevertheless sentenced to life in prison for murder.”

Brown’s fate also reveals big problems with Tennessee’s juvenile justice system, especially its mandatory “51-to-life” law and the factors considered in transferring youth to adult courts in Tennessee.

The editorial calls for “Tennessee legislators to lift mandatory minimums for convicted juveniles and recognize youth have no place in the adult system, regardless of the offense.”


Thanks to MLK50 for continuously publishing justice journalism!

Photo by Daniel H. Birman.

Written by demefrank

mother, womanist, law prof, prison abolitionist. Demetria does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from the viewpoints expressed in this article or post.

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