Free the Scott Sisters | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Free the Scott Sisters

Also see: The Tragic Case of the Scott Sisters

Gov. Haley Barbour should pardon Jamie and Gladys Scott (cover story)—and not because we believe beyond a shadow of doubt that they are innocent. He should pardon them because they have done the time for the crime they are accused of committing. They have served 16 years for (perhaps) putting even younger people up to a robbery. If they did it, it was a horrible act, and they should have served time for it.

Now, though, they have—and they have served more time than many Mississippians who have committed much worse crimes: people who actually brandished weapons, people who injured or killed or raped other people, people who bilked families out of livelihoods or helped indict their political enemies while keeping their buddies and their kids out of jail for real crimes. (Hint on the latter: Read Curtis Wilkie's new book, "The Fall of the House of Zeus.")

The case is especially horrifying because they are women—mothers—who clearly made bad decisions, but now are expected to spend the rest of their lives in prison without parole for those choices. It is not a standard we apply to everyone—and even less so if the criminal has white skin.

The Scott Sisters personify our two-tiered system of justice. They are black and powerless, so they go to jail. White men such as those who brutally killed wives and girlfriends and then got lucky enough to buddy up to the governor in his mansion end up going home early.

Gov. Barbour did not put the Scott Sisters in jail, and it's not his fault they are still there; it was Gov. Ronnie Musgrove who refused to pardon them. But the governor does have the opportunity to make this right. And his decisions to let the woman-killers go in 2008—as the JFP's Ronni Mott and intern Sophie McNeil (read here) revealed to the world then—make it imperative that he now apply some sort of fairness and basic humanity to this case.

There is no indication that the Scott Sisters are dangerous, or that they will commit more crimes. In fact, one of them is very sick. Sadly, they represent other powerless prisoners rail-roaded through our criminal-justice system—many of whom are innocent of heinous charges. (Remember Cedric Willis?)

Tragically, too many people turn their heads from these cases, whether they involve innocence or over-zealous prosecution. And the vast majority of such cases that linger without justice involve African Americans.

If our state has changed as much as people like to say it has, we all need to carry the banner of fair and equitable punishment. If we don't, all of our claims of change will mean nothing. Actions are what matter, not platitudes.

Previous Comments

ID
160687
Comment

JFP, Alice Tisdale's staff at the Jackson Advocate has been reporting on this injustice for years. Thanks for also taking up the gauntlet in support of these ladies.

Author
FrankMickens
Date
2010-11-03T16:34:02-06:00
ID
160690
Comment

Read the cover story, Frank. Ward mentions the Jackson Advocate.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-11-03T18:18:54-06:00
ID
160718
Comment

I actually agree with the release of the Scott sisters. They have served long enough for their crime. I do take issue with the black-white thing. A poor white would have been in the same boat. Remember OJ? Money makes justice. Ms Irby ony got 18 years out of 40 for the deaths of two innocent people.

Author
Mr Fat Back
Date
2010-11-04T13:36:03-06:00
ID
160722
Comment

Mr Fat Back, the truth is that study after study shows that African Americans are far more likely to be sentenced to longer sentences for lesser crime in the U.S. It's just fact. That doesn't mean a poor white couldn't be sentenced unfairly, but the truth is that they aren't as often. Also, how many white people have you seen get out of prison in Mississippi lately due to new evidence/DNA? Race is not always an issue, but is often is. That is reality. O.J.'s not the best example. He got away with murder (OK, allegedly; ahem) largely because of a white supremacist police officer who allowed the defense's reasonable-doubt efforts to work so well.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-11-04T14:19:32-06:00
ID
160763
Comment

If these girls aren't released, no one should be. Enough time has been served.

Author
Walt
Date
2010-11-06T12:06:28-06:00
ID
160898
Comment

"The case is especially horrifying because they are women—mothers—who clearly made bad decisions, but now are expected to spend the rest of their lives in prison without parole for those choices" So it's ok to separate them as women 1st, and as women with children 2nd. Can I pay them accordingly? Really? this is what you sound like-" you're picking on them cause they're girls,and have kids." "The Scott Sisters personify our two-tiered system of justice. They are black and powerless, so they go to jail. White men such as those who brutally killed wives and girlfriends and then got lucky enough to buddy up to the governor in his mansion end up going home early." Yes one white guy made friends and got to go home. Do the math though. Add up every meth arrest, versus skin color, versus pardons. It equals a whole bunch of white dudes serving time.(yeah, yeah, crack and black dudes.) Not every white guy will get released by the governor though. There is nothing compelling to me about this story either. Robbery is horrible. It's a step away from murder. If something had gone wrong, and that someone killed was your sister or brother, we wouldn't sit and ask if the punishment was just. We all have a great luxury of monday morning quarterbacking. Or in this case, Next decade quarterbacking.

Author
Mark Ellis
Date
2010-11-12T21:25:29-06:00
ID
160907
Comment

Yes one white guy made friends and got to go home. Point of information: Barbour let several brutal white male murderers of wives/girlfriends go home. It wasn't one. If something had gone wrong, and that someone killed was your sister or brother, we wouldn't sit and ask if the punishment was just. Point of information II: If someone was killed during the robbery, it would be a different charge and situation, and much easier to argue that this is a just punishment. I assume you know that all crimes do not draw the same punishment or sentencing? As for the rest of your post, Ellis, you're clearly spitballing without doing any homework. The research on who goes to jail for what crime and how long would bite you on the ankle if it were a snake. In other words, it would behoove you to do some homework on this topic if you care to attempt a real conversation about it. I'll sit it out until you read up a bit.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-11-14T17:47:10-06:00
ID
160913
Comment

The Scott Sister's case is just more of the same. Does anyone remember Bubba May: The young boy from Brookhaven, MS who was arrested for stealing a few items from a convience store? He was 12 years old. The Judge ordered him tried as an adult. He served 25 years. Bubba May was released several years ago: He was ill and died a short time after his release. There are hundreds of stories like these in our prison system. White kids, for the most part, get treatment; not prison. Black kids are usually without access to good legal council and they are thrown into the prison system. Treatment for this population is very little, if any. I try to tell kids of all races that the prison systems around the country are becomming privitized. They are BIG BUSINESS deals. Blacks are only 13% of the total population in this country. The reality here is that it will not be long "before I come for you."

Author
justjess
Date
2010-11-15T15:38:19-06:00
ID
160924
Comment

I try to tell kids of all races that the prison systems around the country are becomming privitized. According to this NPR piece, the private prison industry is perhaps the main reason for the immigration bill in Arizona. It wouldn't surprise me if they were behind all these mandatory minimum sentencing laws and all the other "tough on crime" laws too. After all, you can't make money if you don't have bodies to lock up.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2010-11-16T00:07:27-06:00
ID
160925
Comment

Race is not always an issue, but is often is. That is reality.

Author
apple123
Date
2010-11-16T01:18:19-06:00
ID
160928
Comment

Golden eagle,thanks for the link to the article on the Arizona private prison issue. I don't know how to post a link as you did, but, please check out this story: Judges Pled Guilty in Scheme to Jail Youths for Profit - NYTimes.com If anyone finds the story, please link it for easy access for others who might be interested. I Couldn't find how to do it in my "Computers for Dummies" book. LOL!

Author
justjess
Date
2010-11-16T09:23:01-06:00
ID
160931
Comment

Here's how to post a link: "link" Without the quotations marks of course. You can copy and paste the URL address (the www.www.com). Keeps from having to write it down and typing it in. Anyhow, that story about the judge sounds exactly like a Law & Order episode in which a judge was handing out harsh sentences to teens over pretty minor things. She was ordering them to a prison in Ohio in which her cousin was running. She was getting money out of the deal and so was he.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2010-11-16T11:42:50-06:00
ID
160941
Comment

Thanks for the crash course, Golden Eagle.

Author
justjess
Date
2010-11-17T09:09:56-06:00
ID
160952
Comment

FYI: Tom Head reviewed "The New Jim Crow" for the JFP back in September. The book deals with the racist aspects of the U.S. justice system. Here's a link to the story JustJess mentioned (Judges Pled Guilty in Scheme to Jail Youths for Profit), above.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2010-11-17T12:50:01-06:00
ID
160991
Comment

Thanks Ronnie_Mott for the link that I sited. Also, Tom Head's review of the book, "The New Jim Crow" really got my attention. I will order it today.

Author
justjess
Date
2010-11-18T10:09:00-06:00
ID
161368
Comment

Hell has frozen over: Gov. Barbour ordered that the Scott Sisters' sentences be indefinitely suspended today. Here is the story.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-12-29T17:54:06-06:00

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