Daughters To Be Treated To Special Meals On Release
Molly Parker • firstname.lastname@example.org • December 31, 2010
The Clarion Ledger
There will be collard greens for Jamie and homemade macaroni and cheese for Gladys.
Evelyn Rasco is preparing a simple, perfect homecoming for her daughters, who have been eating prison food for 16 years.
"I can't afford a party," Rasco said from her home of Pensacola, Fla., "so I'll probably cook them a dinner."
Those are the dishes the women liked years ago, says Rasco, who has been raising their combined five children. "God knows what else I'll cook."
Imprisoned for their involvement in a 1993 robbery, her daughters will go home to their children in Florida thanks to two orders that Gov. Haley Barbour issued Wednesday indefinitely suspending their sentences.
In doing so, Barbour cited the high price tag on Jamie Scott's regular dialysis treatment, which cost the state about $190,000. Both of Jamie's kidneys failed in January, a source of contention with Rasco.
"The prison contributed to everything that has happened to Jamie's health," Rasco said. "They could have prevented kidney failure."
The sisters have always maintained their innocence, though prosecutors said at trial they were masterminds in the armed robbery in rural Scott County.
According to court testimony, the sisters lured two acquaintances on Dec. 24, 1993, to a secluded area near Forest where three teens robbed them.
The assailants hit both men in their heads with a shotgun and took their wallets, according to the court record. The accomplices testified that the sisters planned the robbery and persuaded them to assist.
The estimated take from the robbery ranges from $11 to $200, but advocates of the Scott sisters have touted the $11 figure and many have questioned their involvement in the crime at all.
The sisters were not eligible for parole until 2014.
Rasco credited her daughters' planned release from the Mississippi Department of Corrections with the five-year Internet campaigns she waged on their behalf with the help of then-Loyola Chicago School of Law student Nancy Lockhart.
"I feel strong and I feel blessed because they are coming home," Rasco said.
Prisons chief Chris Epps said never in his 30 years in corrections has he known inmates whose supporters were as insistent and widespread.
"I've never received as many calls, e-mails, letters from all over the world as I have in this case," Epps said, noting the pleas poured in from the United Kingdom, Africa and Australia and everywhere in between.
Rasco said the sisters' children are anxious for their arrival. Jamie Scott, 38, has three children, ages 23, 20 and 17, and two grandchildren, ages 3 and 5. Gladys Scott, 36, has two children, ages 22 and 15 and two grandchildren, ages 7 and 4.
During a radio interview Wednesday night, Barbour said he believed there is "hardly anybody, or anybody" who is in prison who doesn't deserve to be there, but there are many, the governor said, who do not pose a threat to society.
On the heels of issuing the orders, Barbour said he has asked Epps to look at all inmates receiving dialysis to determine whether they are fit for release. Epps said he would begin that process next week. There are 16 inmates - 15 males and one female - who are receiving dialysis, Epps said.
"The ones who are not threats to society, I don't think the Mississippi taxpayers ought to bear that cost," Barbour told civil rights activist and businessman Charles Evers on Evers' political talk radio show.
The governor conditioned Gladys' release on her donating a kidney to Jamie, something she had already volunteered to do.
Political author Jere Nash said it seemed like a strange stipulation for Barbour to make.
"The guy just can't catch a break," Nash said. "The focus becomes not Barbour's generosity, but Barbour's stipulation that one sister had to donate a kidney to the other sister."
In a statement, Barbour said Gladys "asked for the opportunity to give her sister a kidney and we're making that opportunity available to her."
"All of the 'What if' questions at this point are purely hypothetical. We'll deal with those situations if they happen," Barbour said.
City Councilman Chokwe Lumumba, the sisters' attorney, said Barbour's attorney informed him that Gladys would not go back to prison if the operation cannot proceed for medical reasons.
The sisters originally had petitioned for a pardon, and Lumumba said he would continue to push for that with Barbour or the next governor.
During the radio interview, Barbour said pardons are reserved for people who are "truly remorseful and sorry for what they did."
"That's why we don't ever consider anybody for a pardon who doesn't even admit they did the crime," Barbour said.
The Parole Board recommended to Barbour that he neither pardon nor commute their sentences. Chairwoman Shannon Warnock said it is the policy of the Parole Board not to discuss the reasons behind recommendations made to the governor.
At the Capitol Thursday, more than a dozen advocates gathered for a news conference to celebrate the decision.
It was a lively pep rally. Supporters chimed in with "Yes, yes!" and "That's right!" as speaker after speaker tied into a system they believe erroneously handed the sisters back-to-back life sentences for their role in the heist.
"They treat animals better than they treat the Scott sisters," said activist Clarence Bolls Sr.
Jaribu Hill, an attorney and executive director of the Greenville-based Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights, said, "The voices of thousands of outraged people were raised in protest."
But Lockhart, the law school student who spearheaded a worldwide Internet campaign on behalf of the Scott sisters, said Mississippians were among the last to join the chorus.
"It was very, very hard to get people in Mississippi to assist with this," she said.
In 2005, Lockhart said she was working at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition to pay for school when she received a letter from Rasco, the sisters' mother, via the office of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill.
In the letter, Rasco said she had been pleading with the organization for 11 years to help her daughters with no answer. Touched by the story, but short on cash, Lockhart set out to build a global network of supporters using Facebook and local radio stations.
That network eventually grew to more than 15,000, she said, and includes people from France, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Africa, the Netherlands and Canada. Hundreds of them participated in various letter-writing campaigns throughout the last five years, she said.
"I feel very strongly that this is what did it, the support, the phone, the mailed letters, e-mails, coming from all over the world," said Lockhart, of New York.
Also On W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Radio...
***Check Out The Scott Sisters Update Featuring Sis. Nancy Lockhart 3/24/2010 (Starts In The 2nd Hour)***