NASHVILLE, Tenn — A woman convicted of killing a man at the age of 16 is now a free woman. Cyntoia Brown was released Wednesday from prison. She credits her success behind bars to her family, friends and education.
Since 2007, Lipscomb University students may earn an Associate of Arts degree, a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree and/or a Master of Arts degree inside the prison. Students take one college course at a time - three college credits at a time, semester after semester to earn credits toward their degree.
It typically takes them several years longer to earn a degree than a traditional student who can take 15-18 college credit hours each semester.
Currently, there are 40 Lipscomb students who are inmates - or "inside" students. The inside students take classes in the prison alongside several traditional students or "outside" students who travel to the prison once a week,
"We've had over 100 women in the program, 20 will have graduated with their associate degree at the end of December and 10 would have graduated with their bachelors degree," said LIFE Program executive director, Kate Watkins.
For 12 years this program has been offering courses to inmates including Cyntoia Brown who went on to earn her Bachelor's Degree. Brown said she was a teen sex-trafficking victim when she killed a man at the age of 16.
Now 31-years-old, Brown will remain on parole supervision for 10 years. She is required to complete at least 50 hours of community service, including working with at-risk youth, participate in regular counseling sessions and she must hold down a job.
Brown is just one of several inmates who found success through the LIFE program.
"We’ve had over 100 women go through the program and the only reason usually that women leave the program is they either transferred to another facility because that’s what they decide to do, or they get released from the program," said Watkins.
Students like Brown have the opportunity to not only pursue graduate work at the prison but also take additional courses on the Lipscomb campus after they are released.