Friday, September 24, 2010

Activists Turn Up the Heat to Free Jamie and Gladys Scott

Activists turn up the heat to

Free Jamie Scott and Gladys Scott

By Monica Moorehead
Published Sep 23, 2010 10:30 PM

The struggle to free Gladys and Jamie Scott is gaining more and more national attention and momentum. The African-American sisters have been in the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility since October 1994 after they were convicted for allegedly stealing eleven dollars from a Scott County convenience store in December 1993.

The sisters had no prior police record and no violence happened during the incident. Those who had initially accused them of taking the money recanted their testimony during the trial, but the sisters were still convicted. Their legal appeals demanding a new trial to prove their innocence have repeatedly been rejected, including by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The sisters were healthy women prior to going to prison. Being subjected to abhorrent prison conditions for many years, including poor medical care and a nutritionally deficient diet, Jamie Scott developed stage-five kidney failure. She would have faced a certain death on more than one occasion had it not been for the intervention of family and supporters demanding that the prison provide more frequent dialysis treatments.

Since local activists mobilized a protest on behalf of the Scott sisters in Washington, D.C., this past June 21, this struggle has finally penetrated the national media. Political comedian Dick Gregory publicly supported the efforts of these activists. Many supporters traveled to Washington from Mississippi, to demand that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder pressure Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to pardon the sisters.

A protest march of at least a couple of hundred activists from a park to the State Capitol took place in support of the Scott sisters on Sept. 15 in Jackson, Miss.

Benjamin Jealous, the national president of the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization, was part of a delegation that presented many signed petitions to Barbour’s office in Jackson on Sept. 14 to demand that the sisters be freed. Jealous stated, “It is a travesty that in the state of Mississippi, the lives of two Black women are valued at little more than 11 dollars.

“From the outset, the measures in which the Scott Sisters were convicted were questionable and pattern themselves after dubious criminal justice trends in Mississippi and nationwide. We intend to pursue justice to the fullest extent for the Scott Sisters, and will continue our push for criminal justice reform throughout America.” (USA Today, Sept. 14).

The Scott sisters’ case is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the tragic legacy of racist injustice that is still prevalent today in Mississippi, the Deep South and the U.S. in general.

For example, three Black men — Philip Bivens, Bobby Ray Dixon and the late Larry Ruffin — were exonerated Sept. 16 in Mississippi 30 years after they were falsely convicted and imprisoned for the rape and murder of the same woman. Both Bivens and Dixon stated that they had been coerced into pleading guilty to the charges by the police when told the only alternative was to suffer the death penalty. Only DNA testing proved their innocence. Ruffin died in prison in 2002.

To read more about the Scott sisters’ case and how to get involved, go to
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