The Term Paper is required to be at least 10 pages long, plus a reference, and title page, which
means it should be 12-pages minimum. The Term Paper should examine, explore, and/or
describe the issue/topic in full. The Term Paper must include at least 7 references/sources and
must include in-text citations as per APA format requirements.
Topic: How the U.S Criminal Justice System has failed for black girls and women, and I want to
mainly focus on Cyntoia Brown’s case and discuss more on sex trafficking. Along with other
girls who have been abused and/ or sex-trafficked, Cyntoia Brown's effort to survive under the
circumstances she was in, brought her into the prison passage unreasonably affecting girls of
color. The abuse that is sustained by these women and girls, has led to encounters with the
criminal justice system, and this system treats them as perpetrators rather than as victims and
survivors of abuse/ sex trafficked. Consequently, instead of sheltering, protecting, and providing
resources to these girls and women who have been sexually and physically abused are being
criminalized for surviving their abuse. I chose this topic because I passionately feel there needs
to be a change in the legal system. Cyntoia Brown is not the only victim whom the criminal
justice system has failed and let down.
Look at documentary on Netflix: Use as a reference
Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story (2020)
You may use other legal cases that are relatable.
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Females of color have lived with racial discrimination for centuries. Several black American women, children, and men have been sentenced for life imprisonment on which on some worst occasion sentenced to death by the same justice system which is supposed to protect them. The Black American fraternity, especially young females of color, traditionally are from a lower economic status. Women who have experienced some abuse and trauma, among others, are vulnerable to any risk of attack by the netizens (whites) since most of them know that there won’t be any form of justice for them. The law on the other hand, has failed tremendously in protecting these young girls.
The justice system of the United States has failed miserably in the protection of women, black American women to be precise. The justice system dates back to the pre-colonial period when the law was purported to protect property owners and their property’s legal interests. Unfortunately, “Property owner” was not meant for everyone. During the colonial period, a white man was the property owner, which means that a black woman was the property. This notion of looking down upon black women and viewing them as a tool for physical molestation and as a resource for gaining wealth dates back to the pre-colonial period. This term paper focuses on the injustices of the law towards Black American women and their daily struggles. It also focuses on women who have been abused sexually and convicted without the law protecting them from the perpetrators who put them in those tight spots.
Many factors facilitate the perpetuation of heinous crimes such as sex trafficking, rape, physical abuse, and even murder. The inequality access to quality education opportunity where the African American society does not access. Poverty, foster care system, and gender bias lead to females of color being vulnerable to sex trafficking, rape, and murder (Page,2020). There have been many scenarios where America’s judicial system sentencing victims of sex trafficking as prostitutes, and they don’t distinguish between adult and youths, and all the convicts are given adult punishments.
United States of America’s hypocrisy on sex trafficking is quite eminent. The sex business is continuous to flourish within America’s most profound states while the state watches. The victims of sex trafficking suffer at the mercilessness of their bosses. Some contract dreaded diseases such as HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, and syphilis. Some sex enterprises operate legally or are either incorporated as a legal business owned by white men (Territo and Kirkham, 2010). Some company operates as legitimate enterprises such as salons, nails spar, or restaurants, yet what is behind the scene is the molestation of women of color which should be illegal. Many sex enterprises change over time, not only in location but also in their names. Some enterprises are well represented by lawyers, which makes it very difficult for their victims to receive justice. The victims, on ordinary occasions, are the ones who end up behind bars. Other businesses are owned by prominent judges and leaders in the highest ranks of the government. On regular occasions, sex businesses are advertising as a legitimate business in various ways, including print media such as mainstream English language newspapers, pornographic magazines, non-community magazines, sex guides, the Yellow Pages, and billboards, among others.
The United States military bases are also significant areas for sex trafficking. It is quite ironic that the people who are supposed to protect these young girls are the ones who allow and promote sex trafficking. The sex business hides behind the curtains as massage parlors which most of the victims are women of color. Brothels, sex clubs, and other forms of sex businesses proliferate within the major military bases, whereby some of the sex businesses are either family-owned or prominent local community leaders (Territo and Kirkham, 2010). In serious cases, the sex business can be set up and financed by major organized crime syndicates within America.
Convicted Cyntoia Brown’s life’s background has been devastating. At the age of 16, Gina Mitchell gave birth to Cyntoia Brown. She lived with her mother, who was an alcoholic. Between six months and three years, Cyntoia Brown had been transferred to countless homes, and at sixteen, she ran away from home, where she landed to a cruel person named “Cut Throat” (Page,2020). Her miseries worsened as the person used her for his sexual pleasures. Being young and naïve, the man manipulated her and introduced her to sexual trafficking. According to (Page 2020), several young ladies who find themselves in the hands of sex traffickers are from a foster home where most probably are not treated right. Sex traffickers target such girls based on providing them with a better lifestyle. Many traffickers offer food, alcohol, clothing, rides in expensive cars regardless of their victims’ age. By the time a victim realizes that all the tantalizing words from their owner are lies, it might be too late for them to exit. Usually, sex trafficker threatens these young girls to harm them or their family member. This leaves them with no choice but to adhere to the set rules of the sex trafficker.
To ensure that the business of sex trafficking is continuous, the sex traffickers pump the young girls with drugs until they become addicted to them. This leaves them without any choice but to depend on their owner to be supplied with drugs (Page, 2020). Instead of the law to protect females of color, traffickers use it to threaten these young kids. The law does not offer adequate protection. Since most sex traffickers use the law to manipulate their victims from these laws easily, they make them believe e how worthless they are and that no one can never help them apart from the sex traffickers themselves. The law that should protect females of color from statutory rape and sexual abuse of minors instead treats them as perpetrators of crimes and lands them in detention. Instead of the law to apprehend the sex traffickers who perpetrate these heinous crimes, it’s the female of color who end up behind bars. The justice criminalizes the abused children instead of protecting them, arresting their exploiters, and putting them behind bars.
Cyntoia Brown was back then a sixteen-year-old girl and a victim of sexual abuse by a white man. During the series of events that lead to the white man’s death, Cyntoia Brown feared for her life when she thought that the man who abused her sexually was reaching for a gun when she defended herself and shot Mr. Johnny Michael Allen to death (Gillis, 2020). In 2006 of the fatal shooting, the state convicted Cyntoia Brown of first-degree murder, which she received a life sentence and later deemed as unfair since she was a black American woman. What if the victim was a white female? It was highly probable that a white girl’s punishment would be more of a week’s then released. In 2019, Tennessee’s governor offered Cyntoia clemency after enormous public pressure. The prosecutor who was elected charged her as an adult. Surprisingly, the judge also approved the charges and was found guilty, leading to two concurrent sentences.
During the proceedings, Brown was not allowed to testify on her own, a situation that depicts the justice system’s unfairness. Brown’s attorneys were also unfair to her since they failed to offer evidence, which indicates that she had a severe neurodevelopmental disorder that resulted from her mother’s habit of being an alcoholic. (Page, 2020). After the sentence, five years later, a filmmaker named Daniel H. Birman produced a film on Cyntoia Brown’s story called Me facing Life: Cyntoia Story. The film shone a light into her case, where the public reacted to it and pressured the judicial system of their failure and biasness to protect females of color. The movie also initiated a change of the law. As the public kept on criticizing the judicial system, new attorneys took on Brown’s case and represented her in the 2012 appeal of the 2006 convictions (Page, 2020). It was then realized that during the court proceedings that her defense team tabled pieces of evidence concerning her fetal neuro-developmental disorder syndrome. The team also tabled her traumatic and violent past, diminished mental capacity, and abusive relationship with “Cut Throat.” After a series of endeavors, the new defense team was able to uphold her conviction and sentence. Brown’s unfair conviction attracted celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Amy Shumer, Ashley Judd, who further made Brown’s story worldwide.
The state of Tennessee had imprisoned Cyntoia for fifteen years consecutively. The Supreme Court of America has since then been unfair in their ruling sentencing black Americans to life imprisonment, harsher laws, and judgments. Cases such as Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896), Cumming vs. Richmond (1899), Dred Scott (1856), among others, received unfair sentencing and were the basis of racial discrimination of the black Americans. In 2019, Nicole Addimando was convicted for the second-degree murder of her husband. In her testimonies, Nicole elucidated how her husband sexually abused her.
Moreover, Nicole told the court how long she has persevered to her husband’s physical abuse, which includes biting, burning her with hot spoons (Grillis, 2020). Her husband, who also raped her at gunpoint and threatened to kill her and later himself. Instead of the law protecting Nicole, she was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Another circumstance in which the Supreme Court of America has failed to protect females of color in the case of Marrisa Alexander from Florida. She fired a warning shot during a confrontation with her abusive husband. Alexander was found guilty and sentenced to serve a twenty-year sentence. The jury, James H. Daniel, denied her request for a new hearing under Florida’s stand-your-ground law. The law was amended, and it included firing a warning shot as an imminent threat (Gross, 2015). In July 2014, judge James found that the amended statute “Could not be applied retroactively.” Alexander’s sentencing stands out to proclaim the justice system bias compared to Zimmerman’s acquittal in 2013 (Gross, 2015). Zimmerman, a white male, successfully used the amended statute of Stand-your-ground defense after taking the life of a black American teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012.
On the other hand, Alexander was denied the same protocol baring her from invoking the same protocol to defend her, yet no one died nor got hurt during the warning shot which she fired. In December 2014, she accepted a plea deal, which consequently sent her to Duval County jail, where she served an additional sixty-five days. The plea articulated that Alexander was to undergo a compulsory two years’ probation under house detention and to wear a surveillance monitor (Gross, 2015). Alexander’s case depicts the politics of protection in which the black women were exempted from invoking the statutory. However, they could not escape the punishment by the same law that ought to protect them. The same direction was structured by the pre-colonial members whose main focus was to priorities enslavers neglecting the slaves, thereby criminalizing Black Americans. Alexander’s case points out the troubling aspects of the relationship between black womanhood, interracial gendered violence, and mass incarcerations.
The systematic structural impediments have placed women of color at a greater risk for violence and sexual abuse. According to (in-text), in 1999, fifty-seven percent of female state prisons were victims of abuse before the initial conviction. 46.5 percent were physically abused, and 39 percent were sexually abused. (Gross, 2015). Moreover, there has been an exclusionary idea of protection, which has created the need for women of color to trade in extralegal violence for personal securities. The law-abiding female of color, according to (Gross, 2015) were found carrying small knives to protect themselves from sexual assaults at home, work, or in the streets. In 1855, an enslaved woman in Celia, Missouri, was executed to kill her rapist owner. Such acts were forbidden in the slavery eras. The execution was meant to serve as an example for black women. During those periods, Steve Wilf clarifies that “the rape of black women” was not acknowledged by early American law. To express the outcry of Black American women’s frustration, the nurse’s lamentations in 1912 points it out clear. The nurse lamentation stated that on the one hand, they are assailed by white men, and on the other hand, black men assail them, the black men who should have been their natural protectors. They were assaulted anywhere, in the kitchen, washtubs, and any place where their oppressor deem fit.
Another instance in which females of color are lack proper and quality education. According to (Adridge, 2018) Desree Waston, who was just six -years old, was handcuffed by two police officers in an Elementary school in Avon Park. The young Black American girl was taken into custody, fingerprinted, and had her mugshot taken. The poor young girl was then charged with a felony, battery on a school official, and two misdemeanors to disrupt school functioning and resist the law. Such an event is not as unique as young women of color are criminalized for some simple mistakes. The probability of females of color receiving expulsion from elementary, high-school, or university is very high compared to their whites counterparts. The same young girls should be protected and are only trying to live their lives to their full potential. Yet, the same law criminalizes them. These young girls may find themselves considering some other avenues of making money since most of them have developed brains that may not understand the complexity that life may have on them.
Most of the interviews conducted with the sex victims indicate that they always have high expectations of getting money to take care of their mothers’ siblings or even further their studies. They later find themselves at the mercies of sex traffickers. In a report conducted by (Adridge 2018), she points out that African Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders account for at least two-thirds of the youths in juvenile correction facilities. She points out that most women of color have classified education systems as “School-to-prison,” in which there is a high chance to which they might be convicted over small mistakes done during schools as compared to the native Americans. Studies indicate that as Black American Women and Men share a common racialized risk of punishment in schools, black women face a statistically more significant chance of suspension or expulsion than other students of the same gender. For instance, according to (Adridge 2018), between 2011 and 2012, black male students were suspended three times as often as their white classmates while the female of color was suspended at least six times as frequently as white girls.
In 2000, Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was passed into law to ensure that young girls and women of color are protected under the TVPA from the trafficking of persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery, or slave-like conditions. The united states court also acknowledges that human trafficking is the latest form of slavery and sex trafficking. The United States created a T visa that allows victims of sex trafficking to become temporary United States of America residence to assist the victims in protecting traffickers. In 2003 the act established a right for victims of human trafficking to file civil lawsuits against traffickers. During the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, it added more substantial amendments to the legal remedies for victims in 2011 when it held the TVPA permits recovery of punitive damages (Maioriello, 2019). However, the Trafficking Victims of Persons have been underutilized by the state’s judicial system. It still has some flaws. The TVPA is still centralized and focused around the prosecution of traffickers. Such an application compromises the enacted law its ability to protect the victims of sex and human trafficking.
TVPA only favors the native Americans (white females), and the female of color are exempted. The TVPA statutory needs to be critically analyzed and readdressed to protect women of color like Patty Hearst. Patty Hearst was convicted when she was put on trial for assisting a Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in a bank robbery (Weigel, 2019). Patty Hearst argued that the terrorist group forcefully abducted her, brainwashed her, beat, starved, and raped her. Instead of the TVPA law shielding Patty from the harsh sentencing, she was not exempted and sentenced by the same law, which ought to have protected her. The SLA group had committed countless acts of crime, for instance, murdering superintendent Marcus Forster (Gilbert, 2020). Her sentencing calls to the table issues of Stockholm syndrome, brainwashing nuances of class race, and gender discrimination.
Aldridge, S. (2018). Criminalization and discrimination in schools: The effects of zero tolerance policies on the school-to-prison pipeline for black girls. Aisthesis: Honors Student Journal, 9(2), 1-7.
Gilbert, D. A. (2020). The Logic of Coercive Kidnapping (Doctoral dissertation, The George Washington University).
Gillis, C. (2020). Domestic Violence and Self-Defense: Respecting Women’s Autonomy by Creating a Woman-Centered Law of Self-Defense.
Gross, K. N. (2015). African American women, mass incarceration, and the politics of protection. Journal of American History, 102(1), 25-33.
Maioriello, R. L. (2019). The Trafficking Victims Protection Act: The Prosecution of Traffickers, Prevention of Trafficking, and Protection of Victims of a Severe Form of Human Tracfficking.
Murder to mercy: The Cyntoia Brown story (2020). (2020, April 29). IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9050898/
Page, C. (2020). THE DOUBLE WHAMMY OF BEING FEMALE AND AFRICAN-AMERICAN: HOW BLACK WOMEN ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO TRAFFICKING AND OTHER FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION. Gonzaga Journal of International Law, 22(2), 114-126.
Territo, L., & Kirkham, G. (Eds.). (2010). International sex trafficking of women & children: Understanding the global epidemic. Looseleaf Law Publications.
Weigel, C. M. (2019). Trafficking Cults: Why Courts Should Adopt a Broad Reading of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to Ensure Protection of Cult Victims. Geo. Mason UCRLJ, 30, 269.