Thursday, January 6, 2011

Haley Barbour to Free the Scott Sisters: Beyond Race to the Bitter Aftertaste

See The Entire Story Here ~~~

Editor's update: A spokesperson for the Scott Sisters, Nancy Lockhart, announced tonight, Wednesday, January 5, that the Scott Sisters will be released from prison on Friday to start their lives on parole.

By now you may have heard that on December 29, 2010, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, possibly a Republican contender for the presidency in 2012, has suspended indefinitely the life sentences of Jamie and Gladys Scott. You've probably also heard that Jamie Scott was on dialysis in prison and that a condition of her sister's release is Gladys must donate a kidney to Jamie as soon as possible by decree of Gov. Barbour. That condition is only one of many disturbing elements in the sisters' journey through hell to freedom.

My mantra for this post: I am happy Haley Barbour will free the Scott Sisters. God bless those young women. They are overjoyed to know freedom. God bless social media activists. God bless the NAACP. God bless the sisters' attorney Chokwe Lumumba. God bless America. I am happy. Breathe.

The Scott Sisters are African-American women who were convicted of armed robbery in 1994 in Mississippi's Scott County based on the testimony of three teen males who took plea bargains and swore the women planned the robbery. Both sisters were considered first-time offenders, and so neither had a criminal record before their convictions.

They were not accused of handling a weapon or of demanding anyone's money, but the jury found them guilty and the judge sentenced them to life in prison. According to Nancy Lockhart, an advocate for the sisters, and others, they actually received two life sentences each, "double life." This is a complicated story, and so, the devil's in the details when we consider how these two young mothers landed in jail. You may read the bedtime version here, and the fuller background at this 2010 BlogHer post.

When I first heard that Barbour had suspended their sentences, I rejoiced, but not as much as I would have rejoiced had the governor pardoned the women because it is my understanding that an indefinite suspension amounts to life on parole and leaves both women with felony records, making it difficult for either to find work.

I was also leery. Barbour, a real-time, good-old boy of the South had been pressured for years with blasts from activist bloggersand other purveyors of social media and then the johnny-come-lately grumblings of the NAACP that arose in September to let the sisters go. Their release seemed like it would never come, but when the timing was right, when Barbour found himself wading in hot water after an attempt to rewrite history and paint segregationist Citizens Councils of the 50s and 60s as warriors against the KKK╉to tell a story that even some white conservative southerners refused to buy╉then Mississippi Parole Board deemed the Scott Sisters no longer a threat to society and Voila! Presto. Free at last!

Free sort of, that is. Time served on a sentence that even Barbour himself called longer than usual for the alleged crime committed wasn't enough payment; a kidney was due. When I read that Barbour╉a "tough on crime" governor╉said the condition for freedom for Gladys, who had already said a year ago without coercion that she wanted to donate a kidney to her sister, was she must part with an organ, a little more of that initial happiness ebbed from me. "What!" I said and decided not to write too much about it then lest my anger set the computer on fire.

I don't have to go into exactly what's wrong with the "kidney deal" here. Bioethicists have already objected. Barbour's "quid pro quo" order violates 50 years of organ transplant law, they say. But the governor, with his sights on the Oval Office, is not worried. In fact, he seems to think he's found a new way to claim that he's fiscally responsible as he signs off on the sisters' release.

Undoubtedly nodding to some constituents who never saw a budget cut they couldn't love, Barbour framed Jamie's release in terms of cost savings. In his official announcement he says:

"To date, the sisters have served 16 years of their sentences and are eligible for parole in 2014. Jamie Scott requires regular dialysis, and her sister has offered to donate one of her kidneys to her. The Mississippi Department of Corrections believes the sisters no longer pose a threat to society. Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott's medical condition creates a substantial cost to the State of Mississippi.

Jamie's dialysis, according to Barbour, could cost the the state $200,000 per year and that's the best reason to release her. A release in the name of justice, in the name of compassion? No, can't have that. It's far better to court the muses of Southern Grotesque.

And Barbour's very pleased with himself about his decision. In the video below you'll hear a clip of the governor on WMPR talking to Charles Evers, the station's manager, a small-town mayor, civil rights activist and older brother of the late Medgar Evers (Yes, that Medgar Evers). Someone is chuckling off camera while Barbour discusses how ridiculous it is for the State of Mississippi to pay for a prisoner's dialysis.


From: Jerry Fort Robinson

The Scott Sisters Will Be Released On Friday at which time they start LIFE ON PAROLE w/ a $52.00 per month fee each.






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