When it comes to affecting change, activism is key, even when it comes to things like prison sentences. On Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam revealed that his office was reviewing her case, but if you're wondering how to help Cyntoia Brown get clemency, there are steps that you can take to make sure your voice is heard.
Brown was convicted for murdering a man who solicited her for sex in 2004, when she was 16 years old. She was sentenced to life in prison, and a Tennessee Supreme Court ruled recently that she must serve out 51 years of her sentence before she's eligible for release.
She testified, according to court documents, that she had been forced into prostitution by an abusive boyfriend, who she also said raped her. She told authorities that she shot 43 year-old Johnny Allen, a real estate agent who offered to pay her for sex, at his home because she thought he was reaching for one of the guns he reportedly bragged about owning, and she was afraid of what he might do to her. However, prosecutors argued that she has planned to rob Allen all along.
Brown was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder, felony murder, and aggravated robbery. Just last week, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that Brown would have to serve 51 years in prison before she would be eligible for early release. Because of this, Gov. Haslam has become virtually the only person capable of granting her clemency. He said on Monday that his office would make a decision in the next six weeks, after which his term expires, according to Rolling Stone. Here is how you can help her case:
Call Gov. Haslam's Office
Gov. Haslam's office is reachable at 615-741-2001. There is strength in numbers when it comes to asking elected officials to make certain decisions, and one way to definitely make sure that your voice is heard is to call his office directly and leave him a message. While the governor may not call you back directly, his staff will almost certainly be tracking how many calls the offices receives about Brown's case. can we add a link to his office website?
Or Send Him An Email
If phone calls aren't your thing, there are a few other options available for reaching out to Gov. Haslam — including email. Haslam's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, the email he has listed on his official Facebook page. Like phone calls, his office will very likely be tracking the number of messages that come in about Brown, and it's possible that this could impact his decision. But moreover, it's important to tell lawmakers how you feel about their actions, and email is the perfect opportunity to do so.
... Or A Letter
If you feel inclined, you can also mail Gov. Haslam a letter. While physically mailing letters has gone out of fashion, it may be a good way to catch someone's attention, including. Gov. Haslam and his staff. Your letter might say that you've learned about Brown's story, and you'd like to see Haslam grant her clemency.
You Can Sign A Petition
Activists vying for Brown's clemency are using a multitude of methods to convey to Haslam just how many people support her release from prison, including petitions. One active petition aims to collect over 1 million signatures. As of Wednesday afternoon, it was more than halfway there. The petition will be sent to Haslam's office, according to its description.
Signal Boost Her Case Online
Where there is a high-profile government official there is virtually always a social media team managing his or her Twitter account. Like the emailing and letter writing, it's totally possible that tweeting at Gov. Haslam will produce no personal response, but there will definitely be people tracking what messages are coming in, and those statistics can impact decision-making.
Join The Women's Wave March
On January 19-20, the Women's March activists will yet again be taking to streets around the world, this time to help the fight to end violence against women. Dubbed the Women's Wave March, organizers specifically highlighted Brown's case as one of their reasons for marching. You can find a march near you on their website.
If It Comes To It, Pressure Haslam's Incoming Replacement, Bill Lee
Haslam is out of office in just a few weeks, and if he declines to grant Brown clemency, be prepared to to turn your attention to Gov.-elect Bill Lee, who assumes office Jan. 19. This week, Lee demurred when asked about Brown's case, telling The Tennessean that he didn't know the specifics of the case. But, he said, if it's still ongoing when he takes office, he said he'll "certainly be looking at it."
Clemency cases are difficult to predict. But the overwhelming activism surrounding Brown's case is putting an unusual amount of pressure on Gov. Haslam, and sometimes that pressure needs to be applied until change happens. If you want to help Brown get clemency, going straight to the person in charge of making that decision may be the best way to go.