Pardon Being Considered for Sisters Serving Life for $11 Robbery

Jeff Mays | 9/16/2010, 11:29 a.m.

The case of two sisters sentenced to life in prison for a robbery that netted $11 is the reason this country has more prisoners than any other in the world.

Jamie and Gladys Scott were 20 and 19 years old, respectively, when they lured two men down a road in central Mississippi in 1993. Three teenagers - who were working with the Scott sisters - then struck the men in the head with a shotgun and stole their wallets. The three teens subsequently made plea deals and only served several months in prison.

The Scotts, though, were convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon and have been in prison ever since.

The NAACP is calling for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour to issue a pardon, especially since Jamie Scott may be gravely ill because of kidney problems.

"We're looking for the governor to be a humane person in the situation. It is a hideous event in the history of Mississippi," Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, told the Associated Press.

Barbour's office is meeting with Scotts' lawyers; however, no decision will be made until the parole board issues a recommendation.

On Wednesday, hundreds marched to demand the release of the sisters.

Barbour should be running as fast as his legs will carry him to sign a pardon for these women. The fact that they are still in prison almost 20 years later makes Mississippi look like the most backward state in the union and only makes this country look cruel and inhumane.

Former Assistant District Attorney Mark Duncan has this to say about the Scotts' case:

"My position on this is they were tried and found guilty and sentenced by a jury. I don't know what else there is to say about it."

I say that Duncan needs to learn compassion. In this case, the penalty simply does not fit the crime. The people who wielded the deadly weapon only served a few months. In some places, the Scotts might have been sent to a facility for juvenile or youthful offenders.

"Regardless of what happens, there's no way that the crime fits the time. Nobody was hurt and only a meager amount of money was taken," said Choke Lumumba, an attorney for the Scotts.

In 2008, more than 2.3 million people were imprisoned. A total of 7.3 million people were in prison or jail on probation or parole, which is more than 3 percent of the U.S. population. The United States also has the highest juvenile incarceration rate in the world.

How can we lecture other countries about human rights and women's rights, when we are locking away millions of Americans, with more than 70 percent of them minorities, for unjust stretches of time?

Prison populations are starting to decline now, but that's partially because states and the federal government are trying to save money.

The goal with the Scotts should have been to show them how serious their crime was and then provide the tools to help the young women recover from their poor decision to be involved in a robbery.

Instead, we threw the book at them without a second thought. Both women had children who were forced to grow up without their mothers. That's not justice. That's cruelty.

"It won't make sense if he doesn't pardon Jamie and Gladys," Lumumba said.