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The case of the Scott Sisters of Mississippi goes to Washington, DC
Gray-Haired Witnesses fast to demand freedom and justice for Jamie and Gladys Scott
Today, Monday, June 21, the Gray-Haired Witnesses are holding a fast and day of protest in the nation’s capital, beginning with activities at the Justice Department, then moving on to the White House and ending up at Lafayette Square Park. They’re demanding justice and freedom for Jamie and Gladys Scott, two Black women with double life sentences for a robbery of $11 dollars! They’re also demanding immediate action to deal with the atrocious medical practices in the moldy health unit if the state prison, which have left Jamie at the point of death due to kidney failure at the age of 38.
Even if the Scott sisters had stolen $11 or $100 or $1000, which was not the case, it’s an outrage that they’ve been locked up for 15 ½ years and that the State intends to keep them in prison forever. An abuse of power? It’s more like the exercise of power in a country built on the backs of slaves.
On the night of December 23, 1992, the Scott sisters were in good health in the small town of Forest, Mississippi. Gladys was 19 years old and Jamie 22. Jamie had a daughter and two sons; Gladys had a daughter and was pregnant. When the left a local Minit Mart that night, they had car trouble and asked two young Black men for a ride. They took them home. A little later on, the two men were robbed by three teen-agers of the Patrick family, who confessed to the robbery. Even though the initial statements did not implicate the Scott sisters, Sheriff Marvin Williams showed up at their house the next morning to arrest them.
About ten months later, Gladys and Jamie were tried and found guilty of the crime of armed robbery. Based on coerced testimonies, the state’s attorney convinced the jury that the Scott sisters had masterminded the robbery even though one of the victims testified that this was not true. The teen-agers known as “the Patrick men” were also found guilty, but got light sentences because they had cut a deal to blame the robbery on the Scott sisters. Even though 14-year-old Howard Patrick admitted under cross-examination that he had fingered them under threat of being raped in prison, the jury condemned Jamie and Gladys to die in prison, and sentenced their children to grow up without a mother. Four years later, one of the Patrick men signed an affidavit clearing the Scott sisters of the robbery, but this statement was never considered in a court of law.
Information pieced together by legal analyst Nancy Lockhart and developed in an article published by Dr. Lenore Daniels in the Black Commentator, indicates that the absurd and vicious incrimination of the Scott sisters is the result of a vendetta by former Sheriff Glenn Warren, known as the “high white sheriff”, because the Scott Sisters’ dad, James ‘Hawk’ Rasco, and other family members refused to be intimidated by the system of white power and corruption in the county. A cousin who had to pay a bribe to Sheriff Warren in order to sell illegal alcohol in his club testified against him in an investigation of “a bootlegging operation that also may have involved the judge who presided over the Scott’s trial.” When James Rasco bought the club from his nephew and refused to go along with official corruption, the new sheriff, Marvin Williams, a Black man at the service of white power, swore that the family would pay dearly.
Ever since James Rasco died of a heart attack in 2003, full of anger and grief over not having been able to help his daughters, Mrs. Evelyn Rasco, who takes care of her own children as well as those of Gladys and Jamie, has tenaciously knocked on doors, written, and called officials and civil rights groups that might be able to help free her daughters. Her older son has also helped out. The official response has been practically nil, but demonstrations have been held at the State Capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi, and in recent years, more information has gotten out about the case.
The Gray-Haired Witnesses’ Call
The protest today in Washington DC is organized by seven Black women with many years of experience in fighting for the freedom of political prisoners and against the prison system. Their Call begins with a quote by Ida B. Wells in 1896:
“’One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.’ Her proclamation was a rallying cry for the nation to stand up against lynching and the right of Black men and women to live and move freely with white vigilante groups desecrating and torturing our bodies. When Ida B. Wells stood up, she set in motion a resistance movement where many Americans broke their silence against lynching and said NO. She stood for a race of people bereft of political power or resources. More than 100 years later Gray-Haired Witnesses, Black women with a new Freedom Movement calling on this nation, stand in the spirit of those proud men and women who won hard-fought for victories in struggle and blood….”
“Many of us lived through segregation and worked to dismantle it through various movements for human dignity, equal rights and justice. We now see a coalition of corporate, cultural and political wars fully embracing a White supremacist culture of domination and terrorism. They use their power and resources to lock down-out and up people of color, especially Black people. They seek to weaken our defenses and power to resist by attacking the strongholds that carried us through enslavement, segregation, and Northern oppression. As part of this campaign they slander and dehumanize the entire Black community in the media and other public spaces.”
“This is perfectly illustrated by the case of the Mississippi Scott Sisters, Jamie and Gladys, whose almost 16 yrs of unjust incarceration is a shocking revelation of the pure nothingness with which our lives are deemed in the eyes of this society and world, where such egregious travesties of justice are heaped upon our women with hate-filled arrogance and in plain view!...”
“We must speak loudly and clearly to the devaluation of Black women's bodies and lives. We want people of all colors to wage a struggle and stand with us on these issues because none of us are free until we are all free.”
“We declare that we will act, do what we must, what is required to protect our community, our families and our children from systemic harm which results in their destruction. We will not be pressed down. We will witness from our rich history, in wisdom and with courage.”
Messages of Support
The fast and day of actions is endorsed by over sixty organizations and individuals, including political prisoners Sundiata Acoli and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, who considers the case one of the worst he’s ever heard of in his life. “This country should be embarrassed to have such a blatant travesty of justice exist while wagging our finger at people abroad for human rights abuses. What we have going on here is the epitome of cruel and unusual punishment and is outrageous, even for Mississippi!"
Sundiata Acoli says “…It could be your sister, my sister, anybody's sister! So i gladly join the June 21st fast in solidarity with the Gray-Haired Witnesses White House demonstration demanding freedom for Scott Sisters. It's the very least i or anyone of us could do and i'm urging my family and friends to attend and fast also. If that doesn't get immediate result i hope you'll consider coming back with a campaign to boycott of the state of Mississippi, or some similar action, till they do free the Scott Sisters. Stay strong, and keep fighting, i will too. Free the Scott Sisters! Sundiata Acoli, Political Prisoner"
This is Mumia Abu-Jamal’s message: “Dear Gray-Haired Witnesses: It's wonderful that y'all are supporting the Scott Sisters of Mississippi. I salute you all for your efforts to obtain justice and liberation for them. From the dawn of human time, the 'gray-haired ones' -- the elders, were the communal repository for knowledge of things seen and unseen.
This arises from the great respect accorded the aged in African traditional society. That sistas such as y'all are doing this, in this society of coldness, repression and what I call the 'Prisonhouse of Nations', is a good and necessary thing. As Michelle Alexander has written, the prison industrial complex is the 'new Jim Crow'. So, the battle continues. So, kudos. i salute you all. Ona Move! LLJA! Alla best, Mumia (Abu-Jamal)”
In her message of support, Michelle Alexander tells one of the founders of the Gray-Haired Witnesses, Sis Marpessa Kupendua, that the group is “calling attention to the harm caused by America’s latest caste system: mass incarceration. Women of color are the fastest growing group of the prison population today and the Gray Haired Witnesses for Justice are shining a bright light on the racial bias and cruelty of our criminal justice system.” In an article in the Huffington Post, Alexander wrote: “The double life sentences imposed on the Scott sisters for an alleged robbery in Mississippi netting little more than $11 is a glaring example of a criminal justice system that is no longer much concerned with justice. No one was hurt or injured, and these women have no prior offenses. No other Western democracy subjects its own people to such draconian punishment for minor crimes. And no other country in the world incarcerates such a large percentage of its racial and ethnic minorities. This is Jim Crow justice, alive and well today. I urge all those of conscience to support the Scott sisters and the thousands of other prisoners who find themselves in similar shoes. Sadly, the Scott sisters are not alone. The Gray Haired Witnesses for Justice are standing up for all those suffering needlessly behind bars and we must join them. If we fail to act, history will judge us harshly.”
Sign an online petition demanding freedom and justice for Jamie and Gladys: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/free-jamie-gladys/index.html .
For more information, see: http://freethescottsisters.blogspot.com/
y http://www.grayhairedwitnesses.blogspot.com/ .
Write the Scott Sisters a letter:
Jamie Scott #19197
Area 3, Clinic Bed 7
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8550
Gladys Scott #19142
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8550