NEW YORK (January 8, 2019) -- National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial and Phyllis Y. Nichols, President and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League, today commended Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s commutation of Cyntoia Brown’s life sentence, saying her case highlights systemic problems in the nation’s criminal justice system.
“Our social institutions failed Cyntoia Brown at every crisis point in her life, placing her in a desperate situation,” Morial said. “Time and again we are confronted with the low value society places on the lives of poor women of color, and Cyntoia’s story is a stark illustration of the results.”
Nichols added, “We’re grateful to Governor Haslam and everyone who advocated on Cyntoia’s behalf, and recognize Cyntoia’s own strength and courage in transforming her own life.”
Black juveniles are drastically overrepresented in adult courts, Morial said, noting that Cyntoia was tried as an adult despite being a 16-year-old victim of sex trafficking.
“Studies show that Black girls are seen as ‘less innocent’ than their white peers, leading to harsher punishments for similar offenses,” Morial said. “We must confront these ingrained biases within our justice system if we ever hope to achieve true equity.”
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