Jamie and Gladys Scott are sisters from Mississippi who were released from jail today after spending 16 years in prison for helping steal $11.
And Gov. Haley Barbour didn’t pardon the sisters, as many groups, including the NAACP, have been urging. Instead, their life sentences–let me repeat that, life sentences (CNN says each sister got two life sentences)–were suspended on the condition that Gladys, 36, give a kidney to Jamie, 38, whose health is failing.
This whole situation just rubs me the wrong way. The women should have been released from prison years ago, and the kidney donation should not have been a condition of the release. As someone whose family member is in need of an organ donation, I am bothered by the fact that Gladys might have felt pressured in any way to give up a kidney. That is a serious decision that can have life-changing complications, and should not be made under duress.
One of the reasons Barbour released the sisters is because Jamie’s dialysis treatments cost the state $200,000 a year.
Not because it was the right thing to do.
Not because the men accused of helping with the robbery served their time and were released years ago.
Not because no one should be sentenced to life in prison over eleven freaking dollars.
Because he didn’t want to have to pay for medical treatment for someone in the state’s care.
This is a travesty of justice, a case where you have to laugh to keep from crying. I can only hope Jamie gets her transplant, whether Gladys donates or not, and the Scott sisters are able to move on to what they were supposed to be doing before the state of Mississippi decided robbing a man of $11 justified robbing two women of 16 years of their lives.
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.