JACKSON - ACLU members joined hundred of marchers from across the state today, calling on Governor Barbour to release Jamie and Gladys Scott from prison. The Scott sisters were sentenced to double life sentences in 1993 for allegedly stealing $11. The case illustrates the problems in Mississippi's broken criminal justice system, including excessive sentences given most often to people of color.
Jamie and Gladys Scott have already served 15 years of their double life sentences. Eyewitness statements that led to their convictions have since been recanted. Today's marchers petitioned Governor Barbour for an Executive Pardon or a Commutation of the Scott sister's sentences.
"We are not asking for a special favor for the Scott sisters," said Nsombi Lambright, Executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi. "We are demanding fairness and an end to this travesty of justice. The ACLU works to protect the civil liberties of all Mississippians, including equal and fair access to our justice system. Jamie and Gladys did not get fair access to the justice system; they got a sentence that did not fit the crime."
Today's march began on historic Farish Street with hundreds chanting "Free the Scott Sisters!," a phrase that has become a rallying cry for the Scott sisters' pardon, as well as a cry for general criminal justice reform in Mississippi. The march wound through downtown Jackson, stopping outside the governor's mansion where the crowd demanded the governor release the Scott sisters immediately. Marchers then continued to the Mississippi Capitol Building where the crowd grew even larger.
From a lectern on the capitol steps, speakers decried the treatment of the Scott Sisters and praised the resilience of the sisters and their supporters. Among the speakers were representatives from the ACLU, the NAAPC, Mississippi Worker's Center for Human Rights, MIRA and others. Jackson City Councilman Chokwe Lumamba spoke, and a letter was read from Senator Horhn and Representative Jim Evans asking the governor to free the Scott sisters.
"Today we demand justice for Jamie and Gladys Scott," said Bear Atwood, Acting Legal director for the ACLU of Mississippi. "This travesty must end. Our system of justice demands fairness, sentences must be tailored to punish the crime committed. In this case, a robbery where there was not any injury and the amount of money stolen was just over $10.00 should not have resulted in consecutive life sentences."
Today's march was just one small part of the ACLU of Mississippi's Criminal Justice Campaign to reform Mississippi's criminal justice system.