Don't let Governor Barbour leave Jamie and Gladys to die in prison.
This week is a pretty critical time for folks to be contacting the Governor of Mississippi to implore him to pardon Jamie and Gladys Scott. I'm posting one of the more recent news editorials detailing their struggle below. You can also hit their mom's blogspot for more info (Evelyn Rasco - such a beautiful soul - is their mom; Nancy Lockhart and Sis Marpessa are their champions). Be prepared for some awesome gospel, blues, and soul to stream through when you open it (that means crank up your speakers, not turn them down)!
The conditions of the prison they're in - particularly the trailer where Jamie receives dialysis treatments (when the machine is working, that is) are horrendous - but you needn't make reference to that in your communication with Governor Barbour's office about the pardon - there's an appropriate contact for that below.
If you're a registered Republican - even from outside of Mississippi - please share that with Governor Barbour in your letter, as the man will likely be running for national office in 2012. It would help for him to know that real Republicans are interested in seeing that Americans are capable of delivering both justice and mercy when we've been wrong...
Here's the info to reach Governor Haley Barbour (visit that link, first, to get to know a little about him):
Honorable Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
You may also want to put something on letterhead and e-mail it as an attachment to the governor's personal assistant - Dorothy Kuykendal:DKuykendall@governor.state.ms.us
Also, check out this recent post and please contact the Mississippi health department regarding the black mold, toilets in Quick Bed and inadequate infrastructure in this dialysis trailer which are all located at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi. There are a lot of lives at stake - the survival rates for sick Mississippi prisoners have plummeted in recent years under the current health care provider, Wexford - Mother Jones did an excellent piece on this in March.
Jeffrey K. Brown, Ph.D., R.P.E., B.C.E.
State Public Health Entomologist
Mississippi State Department of Health
570 East Woodrow Wilson Avenue
Jackson, Mississippi 39216
Here's the latest article giving some background on Jamie and Gladys. Please take action on their behalf THIS WEEK.
Leonard Pitts Jr.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Let's assume they did it.
Let's assume that two days before Christmas in 1993, a 22-year-old black woman named Jamie Scott and her pregnant 19-year-old sister Gladys set up an armed robbery. Let's assume these single mothers lured two men to a spot outside the tiny town of Forest, Miss., where three teenage boys, using a shotgun the sisters supplied, relieved the men of $11 and sent them on their way, unharmed.
Assume all of the above is true, and still you must be shocked at the crude brutality of the Scott sisters' fate. You see, the sisters, neither of whom had a criminal record before this, are still locked away in state prison, having served 16 years of their double-life sentences.
It bears repeating. Each sister is doing double life for a robbery in which $11 was taken and nobody was hurt. Somewhere, the late Nina Simone is moaning her signature song:
For the record, two of the young men who committed the robbery testified against the sisters as a condition of their plea bargain. All three reportedly received two-year sentences and were long ago released. No shotgun or forensic evidence was produced at trial. The sisters have always maintained their innocence.
Observers are at a loss to explain their grotesquely disproportionate sentence. Early this year, the Jackson Advocate, a weekly newspaper serving the black community in the state capital, interviewed the sisters' mother, Evelyn Rasco. She described the sentences as payback for her family's testimony against a corrupt sheriff. According to her, that sheriff's successor vowed revenge.
You don't have to believe that to believe this: Mississippi stands guilty of a grievous offense against simple decency.
But there is hope. Recently, the sisters' cause has been championed by high-powered allies. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert and the NAACP have called on Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to pardon the two women. I add my voice to theirs.
I have no way of knowing if the Scott sisters' fate is tied in to some sheriff's revenge and at some level, the question is moot. Whatever the proximate cause of this ridiculous sentence, the larger cause is neon clear: the Scott sisters are black women in the poorest state in the union. And as report after report has testified, if you are poor or black (and God help you if you are both), the American justice system has long had this terrible tendency to throw you away like garbage. Historically, this has been especially true in the South.
If you doubt it, play with the scenario in your head. Try to imagine some rich white girl doing double life for an $11 robbery. You can't.
But then, that girl has access to a brand of justice unavailable to women like Jamie and Gladys Scott. She will receive every break the law allows her and maybe a few it does not. No one will throw her away.
And while it would be nice to think this problem of discarding people's lives would be solved by the release of the Scott sisters, the truth is, that wouldn't even address it.
How many other Scott sisters and brothers are languishing behind bars for no good reason, doing undeserved hard time on nonexistent evidence, perjured testimony, prosecutorial misconduct or sheer racial or class bias?
So fixing the problem the Scott sisters represent involves nothing less than the reformation of the justice system, a commitment to make it, as the name implies, a system that reliably produces "justice” as opposed to these too frequent miscarriages thereof.
Meantime, Jamie Scott, who is in her late 30s now, is in poor health. She is said to be losing her vision and both her kidneys have failed. And we wait for common sense to take hold in Mississippi.
It is a situation that shocks the senses, even if we assume they did it.
Now, assume they did not.
Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.'s column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org