The last days of 2010 have seen justice delivered to two young African American women who have been in prison for 16 years.
Jamie and Gladys Scott were accused and convicted of a robbery that occurred on Christmas Eve in 1993 in Forest, Mississippi. About $11 was taken and nobody was hurt, but the sisters’ conviction netted them both two consecutive life sentences. The girls were accused of luring two African American men into a situation which resulted into their wallets being taken.
Outrage about the convictions was swift, and activists began advocating for their release almost immediately, to no avail. At the time of their release, all appeals had been exhausted.
At the time of their arrest and conviction, Gladys was 19 and pregnant with her second child and Jamie was 22 with three children. Three teens boys also arrested in the case reportedly said at the outset that the Scott Sisters were not involved in the incident, but were said to be pressured to implicate the young women in a plea deal.
The teen boys received far lesser sentences and the Scott Sisters were sent to prison…for two consecutive life sentences.
On Wednesday, December 29, 2010, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who is said to be considering running as a Republican presidential candidate in 2012, suspended the sentences of the women. Jamie is seriously ill. Both her kidneys are failing – and Gladys’ release is said to be on the condition that she donate one of her kidneys to her sister.
This case has not received a lot of attention from mainstream media. There have been activists in Mississippi, however, who have been relentless in getting news about the plight of the women national attention. Recently New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote about the case, commentary was heard on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, and Ben Jealous, head of the National Association of Colored People, have taken the case on. The Innocence Project also took up the case.
Gov. Barbour’s interest in the case is most likely political. He recently praised the Citizen’s Council, a known white supremacist group, for helping schools in Mississippi integrate quietly.
What the Council did was make sure the schools integrate as slowly as possible, threatening and carrying out actions that intimidated people into not stepping over the color line, federal law notwithstanding.
The report about the release of the Scott Sisters said it would take 45 days for the paperwork for the release of the Scott Sisters to be completed. Once out, they will be allowed to travel to Florida to live with their mother, who has been caring for their children since their incarceration.
I hope that Jamie holds out that long, that she holds out long enough to get to Florida and get the help she needs. I also hope that those who love and demand justice never give up and give out, no matter how hard the journey.
Even as I write this, in the wee hours of December 30, there has been no mention of the case on CNN, the so-called “most trusted name in news.” I guess this doesn’t qualify, not like the blizzard, or like the missionary in Haiti who was released from prison after being accused of kidnapping a seriously ill Haitian child.
Hooray for the Scott Sisters. Hooray for those who worked tirelessly for their release. And shame on Mississippi for handing out such an inhumane sentence for this crime. We still have a way to go in meting out justice for minorities and poor people.
That is a candid observation!