Tennessee governor Bill Haslam announced that his office is considering granting clemency for Cyntoia Brown after he was approached by a Black Lives Matter activist.

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Rolling Stone reports that the governor made a speech at the Nashville Public Library on the importance of education. During the Q&A aspect of the event, Justin Lang stepped on the mic and asked the governor about the unfair imprisonment of Cyntoia Brown who was a victim of child sex trafficking.

“Since we’re here talking about education, I wanted to ask a question about one of your Tennessee students and a graduate of Lipscomb University, Cyntoia Brown.

As a victim of sex trafficking and assault, this is an unjust sentence in the first place,” Lang said. Under Tennessee law, all minors engaged in sex work are legally considered victims of sex trafficking. She has not been treated as a victim of trafficking and not given the justice she deserves.

The Supreme Court’s decision that Cyntoia must serve 51 years before she can be considered for parole is a human rights issue,” Lang said. “And so I ask you, what really, functionally, is the difference between life without parole—which is no longer constitutional as the United States Supreme Court declared for minors, for any crime—and ‘you might get parole after 51 years,’ for a victim of sex trafficking?”

And so I ask why has Cyntoia Brown been incarcerated for 14 years for enduring harm? And so I say Governor Haslam, you have the power and ability to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown, and so I ask when will you grant her clemency, I ask what will be your legacy as you leave office, and how will you answer to this human rights violation that the state of Tennessee is committing by keeping her incarcerated?”

Haslam thanked Lang for raising his question and revealed that he’s in talks with people who are working on Brown’s case because he’s considering granting her clemency before he leaves office on January 29, 2019.


“We’re reviewing a lot of cases,” said the governor, “and while Cyntoia’s case has gotten a lot of publicity, I don’t think you want us to treat hers any different than a whole lot of cases that I think people want us to review.”

Unmoved by the governor’s response, the audience began chanting: “What do we want? Clemency! When do we want it? Now!” and “No justice, no peace!”