Barbour suspends sentences of Scott sisters

By Earnest McBride
Jackson Advocate Contributing Editor

The Scott Sisters are to be free after 16 years of incarceration in the Mississippi Correctional Facility for Women at Pearl.

Gov. Haley Barbour announced in a press release Wednesday afternoon that he was acting in accord with the State Parole Board which agreed with his decision to suspend the sentences.

The release comes 17 years and five days after their arrest date of December 24, 1993 on charges of armed robbery of two black men near Forrest County, MS, a short distance from their former home. Attorney Chokwe Lumumba said he understood that the suspended sentence was more in keeping with a parole than full pardon. Both sisters would be eligible for parole in 2014, Barbour pointed out. The sisters will be placed under the authority of the Florida Parole system, Lumumba said, since this is where the family’s official home base is today. Mrs. Evelyn Rasco, the mother of the two sisters, moved the entire family from Scott County, MS, to Pensacola, several years ago.

Barbour indicated in his press release that Jamie Scott suffers from the failure of both kidneys and needs regular dialysis. He also pointed out that Gladys has offered to donate one her kidneys to her sister.

Scott Sisters support groups across the country announced their joy at the welcome news. Paralegal Nancy Lockhart, one of the first advocates to promote the Scott Sisters’ cause worldwide was unavailable for comments Wednesday but will likely be among those to assist the sisters at the time of their release.

The Jackson-based Free the Scott Sisters Committee has been the most active group in pushing for the release of Jamie and Gladys. NAACP President Benjamin Jealous also joined in the cause on September 15 by attending the largest rally yet that ended at the Governor’s mansion, where he and Lumumba presented the governor with petitions asking for pardons or commutation of the double-life prison sentences.

“We who are members of the Free the Scott Sisters support committed are overjoyed at the news of their suspended sentences,” said Jone Maati Primm, one of the few people who visited the sisters on a weekly basis during the final year of their incarceration.”Their release is so long overdue. Speaking for myself, I won’t call it justice because they were punished unfairly for a crime I doubt they ever committed. But it’s a welcome promise of freedom for them. And again I am overjoyed.”

New York-based Kermit Eady, founder of the Black United Fund of New York, regularly broadcasts news and updates about the Scott sisters over Blog Talk Radio. Wednesday’s announcement was, he said, “fantastic.”

“This is the best news I’ve had out of Mississippi – ever,” Eady said.