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Source: YouTube sceenshot

Cyntoia Brown-Long was finally released from prison on Aug. 7 after serving 15 years for a murder that shed light on child sex trafficking.

Although Brown-Long has been spreading awareness to the issue after her release, the now 31-year-old is still considerate of her victim’s family. They were upset that Brown-Long was granted clemency after she killed their son Johnny Mitchell Allen when she was 16. They said in a statement “the judicial system has failed again for victims everywhere.”

Brown-Long understood their position when she went on the “Today” show. “Of course, I would tell them that I apologize,” said Brown-Long, who married music artist Jamie Long while in prison. “If they would ever want an opportunity to speak with me, I’d be more than happy to.”

Back in 2004, Brown-Long was convicted of killing Allen after he picked her up and took her to his home when she was just 16. Brown-Long says she was a victim of sex trafficking and she says she shot and killed Allen, a stranger, out of self-defense when she thought he was reaching for a gun. She then grabbed two of his guns and some money from his wallet to flee in his truck.

A jury didn’t agree with Brown-Long’s argument that she was acting out of self-defense, and she was convicted on murder and aggravated robbery charges. She was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 and would not have been eligible for parole until she reached her late 60s. In January, however, after more attention was brought to her story by people like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam commuted her sentence and she will be on supervised parole for 10 years.

While locked up, Brown-Long received her associate degree and bachelor’s degree at Lipscomb University in Nashville. She began work on her memoir while incarcerated and it was released on Tuesday, entitled “Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System.” 

Brown-Long said that for a long time she didn’t think of herself as a victim. According to her, she was forced into sex trafficking by an abusive boyfriend nicknamed “Cut Throat,” who also sexually assaulted her.

Since being released from prison, she constantly emphasizes that many women in prison share her story and deserve compassion. She told news anchor Lester Holt on “NBC Nightly News” that “The women who helped me get to this point, they’re still in prison for 51 years and up with ridiculous sentences, and they don’t have hope right now,.”

She continued, “The system strips them of any personhood, of any voice. And I feel like in seeing me you’re able to see them, because they’re just like me.”

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