Cyntoia Brown: Christian university’s prison program ‘changed my life’

Religion News Service | 1/11/2019 | Staff
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(RNS) — Each semester, the LIFE program at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., which is associated with Churches of Christ, pairs traditional students with inmates serving time in the Tennessee Prison for Women.

This week, the most high-profile graduate of that academic program — offered behind the prison’s locked steel doors and razor-wire perimeter — made national headlines when Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted her full clemency.

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Cyntoia Brown will be released Aug. 7 after serving 15 years in the 2004 murder of Johnny Allen, 43, whom Brown shot to death when she was 16.

“This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” Haslam said in a news release. “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16.

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“Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life,” added the governor, a Republican in his final days in office. “Transformation should be accompanied by hope.”

In pushing for commutation of Brown’s sentence, supporters — including celebrities such as Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and Ashley Judd — depicted her as a victim of sex trafficking. A 2011 film, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s story,” details her life as a teenage runaway forced into prostitution by an abusive boyfriend.

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“I am thankful for all of the support, prayers and encouragement I have received,” Brown, 30, said in a written statement after the governor’s decision. “We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings. The Lord has held my hand this whole time, and I would never have made it without him. Let today be a testament to his saving grace.”

Brown’s statement said the Lipscomb...
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