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.
Above is a photo of Jamie Scott, now 38, holding her grandchildren during a short visit home in 2008 to attend the funeral of her oldest sister who died of congestive heart failure. Gladys was not allowed to attend.
Sent to prison when they were ages 22 and 20, neither saw their children grow up. Jamie has three and Gladys, now 36, has two. Gladys also has grandchildren. Their five children were raised by their mother, Evelyn Rasco, who had already raised six children of her own, three boys and three girls, when her two younger daughters received life terms. Gladys is the youngest.
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.