This week is a pretty critical time for folks to be contacting the Governor of Mississippi to implore him to pardon Jamie and Gladys Scott. I’m posting one of the more recent news editorials detailing their struggle below. You can also hit their mom’s blogspot for more info (Evelyn Rasco – such a beautiful soul – is their mom; Nancy Lockhart and Sis Marpessa are their champions). Be prepared for some awesome gospel, blues, and soul to stream through when you open it (that means crank up your speakers, not turn them down)!
This week is a pretty critical time for folks to be contacting the Governor of Mississippi to implore him to pardon Jamie and Gladys Scott. One of the more recent news editorials detailing their struggle is already posted below. You can also hit their mom’s blogspot for more info (Evelyn Rasco – such a beautiful soul – is their mom; Nancy Lockhart and Sis Marpessa are their champions). Be prepared for some awesome gospel, blues, and soul to stream through when you open it (that means crank up your speakers, not turn them down)!
The conditions of the prison they’re in – particularly the trailer where Jamie receives dialysis treatments (when the machine is working, that is) are horrendous – but you needn’t make reference to that in your communication with Governor Barbour’s office about the pardon – there’s an appropriate contact for that below.
If you’re a registered Republican – even from outside of Mississippi – please share that with Governor Barbour in your letter, as the man will likely be running for national office in 2012. It would help for him to know that real Republicans are interested in seeing that Americans are capable of delivering both justice and mercy when we’ve been wrong…
Here’s the info to reach Governor Haley Barbour (visit that link, first, to get to know a little about him):
Honorable Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
You may also want to put something on letterhead and e-mail it as an attachment to the governor’s personal assistant – Dorothy Kuykendal:
Also, check out this recent post and please contact the Mississippi health department regarding the black mold, toilets in Quick Bed and inadequate infrastructure in this dialysis trailer which are all located at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi. There are a lot of lives at stake – the survival rates for sick Mississippi prisoners have plummeted in recent years under the current health care provider, Wexford – Mother Jones did an excellent piece on this in March.
Jeffrey K. Brown, Ph.D., R.P.E., B.C.E.
State Public Health Entomologist
Mississippi State Department of Health
570 East Woodrow Wilson Avenue
Jackson, Mississippi 39216
Please go to his website and leave your own message – not just a name to be counted against the many more who will register their support for the death penalty in his state, but a voice that might move him to reverse this grim decision. Whatever or whomever she is a channel for, Teresa has been a blessing to other women doing time, and could continue to be so.
You needn’t be “born again” yourself – or even speak the same language – to try to save this woman’s life. I honestly don’t know what it will take – if anything at all will work a miracle with this man. I do think that it matters in the greater scheme of things that we take the time nevertheless, to show that we care.
Teresa is to be executed on September 23, so please act today.
Dear Governor McDonnell,
As you know, Teresa Lewis is scheduled for execution on September 23, 2010. Only you can stop this from happening. She has taken more responsibility for her conduct than most adults ever do, though she has the cognitive abilities of a child.
For centuries people with developmental disabilities have been treated as less-than human; objects of ridicule or curiosity; subjects for experiments and involuntary sterilization; workers to be exploited at slave-wages; scapegoats to carry the burden of our collective failings.
We’ve come a long way in recent decades in how we treat the mentally disabled. Our readiness to execute them, however, indicates that we still have a ways to go.
Virginia has a precious opportunity to secure a place in history by deciding not to dispose of the life of this humble woman who has given of herself to others at a time of their deepest remorse and despair, despite her own predicament.
Teresa is not the one begging you to spare her life – we are. By her faith, her death on earth will reunite her with the Christ in Heaven whose love she is clearly a vessel for now to other women in prison.
What message will carrying out her execution deliver? That there is no room in American justice for mercy, or in the human spirit for transformation, or in the hearts of our people for grace?
We aren’t asking you to end the death penalty in Virginia, or to save this woman’s soul – the latter has already been done. She will die more free than many who demonstrate twice her mental capacity. We’re simply asking you to be a vessel of God, too.
His justice would not exact more of her than of those “normal” men who committed the actual murders. His justice would not value her life less than theirs. He would look across this country at the countless Americans who have taken the time out of their lives to fight for hers, and hope that humanity is on the precipice of learning mercy for the condemned – particularly for those who are so visibly touched by His grace.
Teresa Lewis committed a horrible crime that she cannot compensate her victims for, even by surrendering her own existence, as she did the day she took responsibility for what she had done. If given life in prison she would not harm another human being again, and could even help others heal. It is not her who threatens us any longer – it is our need for vengeance that endangers this nation now.
It takes power to exercise mercy which – throughout the course of human history – has been the quality that distinguishes those who conquer from those who lead. Please reconsider your decision to allow this execution to proceed.
Thank you for your time.
Margaret J. Plews
(originally posted at the Prison Abolitionist February 1, 2010).
COXSACKIE, N.Y. — With his swollen legs and a throaty rasp that whistles like a kettle through his broken teeth, Eddie Jones is an unlikely man to make history.
He is 89 and dying, a former loan shark who, at 69, shot another man dead on a Harlem street in what he claimed was self-defense. Now he is serving a sentence of 25 years to life in a prison hospital bed in this upstate town, riddled with heart disease and probably cancer, though his doctors are not certain about the cancer because Mr. Jones has refused most every medical test.
Mr. Jones’s original parole date was in 2015, but he stands to go free in the coming weeks under a new state law that makes chronically as well as terminally ill inmates eligible for early release. Inmates must be deemed physically or cognitively unable to present a threat to society.
The law, passed with the state budget last April, expanded the eligibility list to add those convicted of violent crimes including second-degree murder (like Mr. Jones), first-degree manslaughter and sex offenses, so long as the ailing inmates have served half their time.
But despite fanfare within the corrections field about the humanitarian and financial benefits of compassionate release — New York is one of a dozen states that have expanded, enacted or streamlined programs over the past two years — the policy shift has had minimal effect. Experts attribute this to the fear that freed inmates, no matter how sick, might commit further crimes, as well as to the difficulty of placing dying criminals in nursing homes.
“The problem is, when we start trying to put people out, there are others in the community who are sure we’re trying to make more crime in the community,” said Dr. Lester Wright, chief medical officer for the New York State Department of Correctional Services. “We’re also competing for beds. Some people think my patients aren’t as valuable as other people in society.”
The embrace of compassionate release comes as the nation’s prison population is at a historic high — 1.6 million people as of 2008, according to the Justice Department — compounded by a surge in aging and sick inmates serving longer sentences. In 2008, there were 74,100 inmates age 55 and older, a 79 percent increase from 1999. New York estimates the cost of caring for a gravely ill inmate at $150,809 a year.
Once released, they are usually cared for by family members or placed in nursing homes or hospices, their expenses largely covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
But while the new state guidelines led to a rise in applications for medical parole — 202 inmates last year, compared with 66 in 2008 — they have hardly led to more releases. Mr. Jones would, in fact, be the first freed under the new guidelines (the seven inmates released last year were eligible under the old rules).
The National Conference of State Legislatures said 39 states had compassionate release programs, but many of them also have minimal impact.
In California, where federal judges ordered the state to cut the prison population by 40,000, three people were granted compassionate release last year. In Alabama, where prisons are at double their capacity, four sick inmates were let out on compassionate release in the 2009 fiscal year; 35 other prisoners in Alabama died while their applications were being reviewed.
Since New York adopted medical parole in 1992, at the height of the AIDS crisis, 364 people have been released.
“Medical parole was designed to consider the humanitarian needs of inmates as well as the safety of the community,” said Brian Fischer, commissioner of the State Department of Correctional Services. “Anybody can tell us they want medical parole, but the numbers who qualify are going to be a lot smaller than the ones who want it.”
Advocates for prisoners argue that fear of recidivism is unreasonable, especially for convicts close to death. Corrections officials said during the 18 years the program in New York has been in effect, three medically paroled inmates have ended up back in prison, none for violent crimes.
“Politicians and high-level officials and bureaucrats don’t want to be accused of being soft on crime, even if the prisoners are terminally ill and there’s no possible risk to public safety,” said Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, a prison advocacy group.
Indeed, the release last summer in Scotland of a sick Libyan man convicted in the bombing of an airplane over Lockerbie created an international furor. Last fall, anger over New York’s new law erupted when Gregory Felder, who was convicted of murdering a Radio Shack employee on Long Island in 2004 and is now gravely ill, was considered for parole. (He was turned down; and a legislative loophole that had made him eligible despite having not yet served half his sentence was subsequently closed.)
Other cases have unfolded far from the public glare. Cinderella Marrett, 74, who was caught at Kennedy International Airport in 2007 smuggling cocaine in her girdle — to offset medical expenses, her daughter said — was released in May 2009. Stricken with cancer, she is living in a nursing home in the Bronx.
Since 2005, at least 16 New York inmates have died while waiting for the parole board to decide their fate.
Timothy McGowan, a once-burly high school dropout from Deer Park, N.Y., spent half of his 50 years behind bars for 11 felony convictions, including robbery and second-degree manslaughter. By the time he was thrown back in prison for a parole violation in April 2009, cancer was consuming his lungs, whittling away his body and creeping up his brain stem.
In July, when Mr. McGowan could barely walk, his prison doctors applied on his behalf for compassionate release; his final wish was to have one last cup of tea with his mother in their Long Island home. Instead, he died at the Fishkill Correctional Facility on Nov. 7, two days before the parole board was to hear his case.
Among the prisoners in New York newly eligible but denied release last year was Sergio Black, 38, a former Marine who said he had fought in the first gulf war.
Mr. Black was convicted in 2005 of raping his former companion, which he denied. In 2006, his spinal cord was injured in a prison basketball game. Now a quadriplegic in the Walsh Regional Medical Unit of the Mohawk Correctional Facility in Rome, N.Y., Mr. Black is a “poster boy for medical parole,” according to his lawyer, Stephen Dratch, because it would be difficult for him to commit another physical crime. But the parole board rejected his application, saying Mr. Brown “exhibited little or no insight or remorse for the victim.”
Mr. Jones, the near-nonagenarian and former loan shark known by his hospice aides as the Harlem Knight, was supposed to go before the parole board in December, but the hearing was pushed back twice because the court had not yet sent a transcript from his sentencing. His next scheduled parole date is next month, and he remains bedridden in the hospice at the Coxsackie state prison.
A long-lost niece, Marcy Jones, who lives in Washington, has poured her heart into pushing corrections officials and the governor’s office to grant the parole. She is optimistic enough that she has bought her uncle a new wardrobe and has set up a battery of medical appointments for him.
“Once I get him out, I’m going to advocate for others,” Ms. Jones said. “There are other Uncle Eddies out there.”