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Susan Brown is a mother, advocate, renowned artist, and winner of The Prison Creative Arts Project Award. Twenty-one years ago, she was sentenced to life without parole for killing her estranged husband in Michigan, where she remains incarcerated.
Brown had left her abusive marriage a year prior and was 30 weeks pregnant with a new partner’s child when her estranged husband attacked her. He beat her, raped her, and stabbed her pregnant stomach. Brown fought back to defend herself and her unborn child’s life. In a blur of events, she found herself in the hospital with her child born devastatingly premature and learned her estranged husband was dead. She was charged with first-degree murder.
Suffering from serious postpartum medical and psychiatric issues and the trauma of her attack, Brown struggled to participate in her own defense. In 2006, the Michigan Court of Appeals wrote that Brown “proffered no example of prior aggressive behavior [by her ex-partner], either before, or after the separation.” The first trial resulted in a mistrial, but the subsequent trial resulted in a conviction.
During her incarceration, Brown has remained an active mother, advocated for people with disabilities in prison, served as a conflict mediator, and created art that has been exhibited in Michigan and internationally. Her advocacy for second chances has bolstered proposed second look legislation in Michigan. She hopes to return home to her children and elderly mother but says, “Until I can physically be free I am ever so grateful for the opportunity to express my personal freedom of art with all of you. To my beautiful children, it is an honor to be a part of your lives. I love you so very much!”