LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Cyntoia Brown-Long made national headlines when she was released from prison in August and today she is speaking on diversity in the justice system and telling her story at Texas Tech’s “Celebrate Diversity Banquet." This morning she spoke on these topics to Texas Tech law students.
Cyntoia was allowed to go free when she was granted clemency by the Tennessee governor in January 2019. She served 15 years of her original life sentence behind bars for first degree murder and aggravated robbery.
"I was blessed and it was a sheer miracle and a move of God,” said Cyntoia. She explained that clemency, which can be granted by a state governor or the President of the United States, is rare.
In 2004, when she was 16 years old, she shot and killed 43-year-old Johnny Mitchell Allen, in what she describes as self defense in a sex trafficking situation. As a part of her life sentence, Cyntoia had to serve 51 years before an opportunity for parole. She got out 36 years early and today, she said she enjoys talking to students because they are the future.
"Here at law school, you're learning what is considered the fabric of our country. The system that so many are fighting to change, you're learning how it works. You're learning how you can create change. You're learning how you can overhaul these practices that are impacting people in so many negative ways."
Since her release just less than two months ago, she's published a book called 'Free Cyntoia: My Search For Redemption in the American Prison System".
It tells her story of a tumultuous childhood living with her alcoholic mother and surviving the injustices of sex trafficking, particularly when it comes to convictions.
"While I was going through everything that I was experiencing, I didn't have a blueprint. I really had to figure out things for myself. It was a really difficult time. I didn't have anyone who had been through it to walk me through it. I thought that that was important for other young people who many experience the same things.”
Cyntoia says she wants to promote discussion about diversity in the justice system at tonight’s banquet.
"Diversity and inclusion was a very important theme in my story. I think it’s a very important conversation… especially now, “said Cyntoia. “We all have prisons that we're going through and God can see you through anything. He is powerful beyond measure."
Tonight’s event is sold out.