Scott Sisters Prison Sentence Suspended: What if There was No Need for a Kidney?

I’ve been on information overload so I’ve purposely unplugged from all news sources and media for the holidays. Call it a mini-vacation, but it was much needed; hell, even professional racism chasers get worn down from time to time. So when at 3am this morning I read that Mississippi governor Haley Barbour announced that he was going to free the Scott Sisters, I was excited and overjoyed. No seriously, at 3am, such a feeling is a major occurrence.

But when I read the part in the article that their release was contingent on one of them donating a kidney to the other, I was like, “tha f@#k kinda shit is that?” Yeah, I got just a tad bit pissed off. I mean, spending 16yrs of a life sentence for “allegedly” committing a robbery that net $11 seemed to be injustice enough that warranted their release. But no, not in Mississippi, you gotta give up an organ? That is, unless you’re sitting on death row…

Ah yes, the kidney for clemency program!

“Today, I have issued two orders indefinitely suspending the sentences of Jamie and Gladys Scott. In 1994, a Scott County jury convicted the sisters of armed robbery and imposed two life sentences for the crime. Their convictions and their sentences were affirmed by the Mississippi Court of Appeals in 1996.

“To date, the sisters have served 16 years of their sentences and are eligible for parole in 2014. Jamie Scott requires regular dialysis, and her sister has offered to donate one of her kidneys to her. The Mississippi Department of Corrections believes the sisters no longer pose a threat to society. Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott’s medical condition creates a substantial cost to the State of Mississippi.

“The Mississippi Parole Board reviewed the sisters’ request for a pardon and recommended that I neither pardon them, nor commute their sentence. At my request, the Parole Board subsequently reviewed whether the sisters should be granted an indefinite suspension of sentence, which is tantamount to parole, and have concurred with my decision to suspend their sentences indefinitely.” (source)At any rate, I’m glad that after all the years of hard work by the members of the public as well as their families, that they’ll soon be released. Yeah, I know a kidney is a heck of a bargaining chip though a win-win in this instance. But how about the governor just releasing them for time served, much like John Harris White, whom y’all say was justified in his crime on Long Island in 2006?

Of course a part of me thought that this was a major public relations damage control move by Barbour given his recent not-so-quite-racist statement not too long ago. I mean, what better move is there to get in the good graces of black folks when you’re thinking of running for the position of president of the United States in 2012 when the current president is himself a black man?

With black folks not having a short memory (some of us today still remember like yesterday the time we got off of those slave ships in Mississippi), when someone says, “F@%k Haley Barbour!” Winning them over and getting their vote will be a lot easier when someone says, “Like Lincoln, he freed all of the slaves in Mississippi, including the Scott Sisters, fool!”

But according to the NAACP president, Ben Jealous who appeared on CNN today. Barbour had been working with the civil rights org on this case prior to his controversial remarks two weeks ago. And according to Jealous, they had been anticipating this announcement weeks ago. I’m not sure what to believe as this could be yet another opportunistic move by the organization – if anybody can confirm this I’d love to hear it – however, I’m doubtful that it was.

Though I’m happy for their pending release, I have to wonder: would this be happening if Jamie Scott were healthy and not in need of a kidney transplant? A kidney transplant that only her fellow imprisoned sister, Gladys, can can assist her with, as opposed to the cost of daily dialysis incurred by the state of Mississippi? Either way, it must suck for other preposterously sentenced inmates of petty crimes (read: poor folks) who aren’t as luckily blessed with kidney problems while their governor contends with a racial revisionist history.

With the kidney transplant clause, I guess I now know how it feels to “compromise” with the lives of “poor people” much to the benefit of the wealthy like Barack did, and say to myself that it’s a good deal, and the thing to do.