Saturday, January 08, 2011

Freed Scott Sisters Say They Aren't Bitter 'We're Free ... Thank God'

 Jamie (L) & Gladys Scott With Their Lawyer Chokwe Lumumba
Freed Scott Sisters Say They Aren't Bitter
'We're Free ... Thank God'

Elizabeth Crisp • • January 8, 2011
The Clarion Ledger
With their life sentences for armed robbery suspended, Jamie and Gladys Scott say they aren't bitter about the 16 years they spent behind bars.

"We couldn't have made it in that prison being bitter," said Jamie Scott, 38.

The Scott sisters, who received life terms for their involvement in a 1993 armed robbery that netted between $11 and $200, left the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility Friday morning, driving through a crush of news media - waving and yelling "We're free" and "God bless y'all."

They were scheduled to reunite with their mother, Evelyn Rasco, and their children in Pensacola, Fla., Friday night. Jamie Scott has three children, ages 23, 20 and 17, and Gladys Scott has two, ages 22 and 15.

"I believe that's when I'm going to break down," Gladys Scott, 36, said during an afternoon news conference in Jackson. "That's when reality is going to sink in for me."

Both also are now grandmothers - something Jamie Scott said may take some time to adjust to.

"It's going to be weird - very weird," she said.

Jamie Scott's grandchildren are ages 3 and 5, and Gladys Scott's grandkids are ages 7 and 4.

The sisters are required to report to the Florida Department of Corrections by Jan. 18. They will remain on probation for the rest of their lives as part of their release.

Jamie Scott, who suffers from kidney failure and diabetes, was scheduled to have a dialysis treatment in Florida this morning.

In agreeing to release the sisters, Barbour noted the high cost - nearly $200,000 a year - of providing her dialysis in prison.

He conditioned Gladys Scott's release on her donating a kidney to her sister within the year.

"I'm praying to God that I'm a match," Gladys Scott said. "I was going to give it to her anyway - he didn't have to let me out of prison to do that."

The governor's office has declined to speculate on what will happen if Gladys Scott is unable to go through with the donation.

The sisters are trying to qualify for Medicaid to help pay for Jamie Scott's dialysis and the eventual transplant, and NAACP leaders said they had been working all day Friday to fast-track the paperwork.

Some doctors and hospitals have reached out about performing the operation, but nothing has been finalized, the Scott sister's attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, said.

Rasco has fought for years to have her daughters freed, gaining the attention of the NAACP, ACLU and several grass-roots organizations.

The case received national media attention in the months leading up to Barbour's decision to order their release.

Advocates have argued the back-to-back life sentences handed to the sisters by a jury were extreme.

During the sisters' first public appearance at Jackson's Masonic Temple on Friday afternoon, supporters cheered as the two walked into the room.

Several held signs, and some wore T-shirts emblazoned with Jamie and Gladys Scott's photos and "Free the Scott sisters."

"It's been a long, hard road, but we made it," Gladys Scott said.

On the advice of their attorneys, the Scott sisters did not discuss what happened Dec. 24, 1993 in Scott County.

They have maintained their innocence, but according to court testimony, they lured two acquaintances to a secluded area where three teens robbed them.

The assailants hit both men in their heads with a shotgun and took their wallets, according to the court records. The accomplices - all teens at the time - testified the sisters planned the robbery and persuaded them to assist.

Ben Jealous, national leader of the NAACP, said advocates will continue to seek a pardon.

"Everybody came together when they heard the call," he said. "We're still working."

Jamie and Gladys Scott would have been eligible for parole in 2014.

"I told my sister, 'Man gave us 2014, but God said, 'No', " Gladys Scott said.

She first learned of her impending release when she saw a news alert on TV.

"I just started screaming and hollering," she said.

Jamie Scott said she learned it from some of her fellow inmates in the kitchen.

"All the inmates started yelling 'You're free, You're free," she said.

Lumumba said many people are rejected by their families when they go to prison, but the situation was different with the Scott sisters - and that may have played a role in their release.

"(The family) continued to support their loved ones," he said. "Sixteen years is a long time."

Jamie Scott said she hopes to be an advocate for others in prison.

"I left people in that prison that I love with all my heart," she said. "They don't have a voice, so I'll be their voice."

To comment on this story, call Elizabeth Crisp at (601) 961-7303.

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