NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Victims’ advocates say it’s time people wake up to the reality of child sex trafficking. Today (Jan. 7), Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown, a woman who has been serving a life sentence after she killed a man when she was 16 while she was a victim of sex trafficking.
“We’re up here to say thank you to everybody here and everybody across around the world who has been involved in pleading for, praying for the release of Cyntoia Brown,” said attorney Charles Bone.
As a 16-year-old, Brown was sentenced in Tennessee to life in prison for murder. Her attorneys argued she was a victim of sex-trafficking and feared for her life. Brown is now 30 years old.
“Her story, though, is a story that should be a catalyst for a lot of others. Thousands of other juveniles. We need to see this as a national awakening to change the draconian laws that allow juveniles, children to be placed in adult prisons when they’re just children,” said attorney Houston Gordon.
Covenant House Executive Director Jim Kelly couldn’t agree more.
“This reversal shows that people are listening, learning, getting educated…pimps brainwash young women whether they be their boyfriend, their daddy - they brainwash these young women,” Kelly said.
Kelly said in the past two years, they’ve helped 218 sex trafficking victims in New Orleans. That includes the recent rescue of a 16-year-old girl whose suspected captors, Elbert Raiscos and Jovan Martin, are facing multiple charges for kidnapping, raping, drugging, beating and sex trafficking her. A judge raised their bonds significantly, saying they were a danger to society and, in part, because of public outcry.
“Here in New Orleans, people are coming together to say, ‘How are we going to attack this problem? This shouldn’t happen, we shouldn’t have sex trafficking in New Orleans,’” said Kelly.
Kelly said these high-profile cases help bring real attention to the issue that children who are trafficked are not the criminals.
“I’m delighted the courts are waking up, and we as a society are waking up to realize we’re going to put this 16-year-old girl in jail until she’s 51? They have reversed themselves, thank God,” Kelly said.
He said so often in these cases, the victims are forgotten or punished instead of getting the help they need to accomplish what they’re capable of.
“It shows how good they are, how beautiful they are, how brave they are,” said Kelly.
Brown will be released Aug. 7. She will remain on parole for 10 years.