Original post from Free Marcia Powell. Sunday, January 24, 2010 (re-posted Mississippi Prison Watch February 6, 2010)
For anyone who’s just dropped in: Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, please stop for a moment. We’re asking you for maybe five minutes of your time a few days a week for the next little while to help change a family’s life. We aren’t even asking for money – maybe a few stamps or long distance phone calls. Just be a fellow human being who cares about what happens to them, and about justice. There’s evidence that these women were wrongly convicted, but regardless, I don’t see how anyone can read anything other than racism into a double-life sentence for an $11 robbery in which no one was hurt. That’s the penalty for claiming your innocence in America. The guys who really pulled it off got the deal.
As for the State of Mississippi: you should consider yourselves on notice that medical neglect has already been found to constitute cruel and unusual punishment in the case of prisoners in America. The suffering and neglect that Jamie Scott is experiencing now should really be litigated not only as a civil rights matter, but as a criminal assault on her as well. I frankly think her family has standing to sue the state for their prolonged agony, too. How do you compensate a child for taking their mother away from them for so many years? Or a mother for taking her daughters? How will you compensate them if you let her die, and then she’s exonerated?
Who, exactly, is Mississippi contending that it needs to protect from these women, anyway? You’re essentially threatening to execute a young woman who has a fairly convincing innocence claim out in the American public now. Her life is in your hands, and you say she’s not even worth enough to feed a medically-recommended diet to. That sounds to me like a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. You don’t want those people mad at you, too. They don’t like being discounted and left to die invisibly in any kind of institutions.
We say Jamie’s life is worth the special diet and more: her humanity is not what’s in question here: yours is. Medical neglect of this magnitude should constitute violent crime of the torture variety, and we doubt that Jamie is the only victim in your prisons. You are positioned kind of like an EMT standing over a woman whose life could be saved by the medicine you have in your hand, but you won’t administer it because it’s not on the formulary for the poor. One twisted rationale holds that it’s cheaper to let them die in medical crisis than to treat them properly for chronic, expensive conditions. Besides, what value is a life that’s going to be spent in prison, anyway?
The relationships people have with each other in prison should never be underestimated; they will likely either help facilitate healing or cause more damage. There’s been much documentation about the harm done people in prison when they have little human contact. There’s also a whole lot on how prisoners have helped eachother. We are in no position to denigrate the relevance of one woman’s existence, even if she is buried for life – double life – under a mountain of State secrets and hidden behind concrete walls.
Prisoners often have only each other to turn to to help them survive what is an extraordinarily traumatic ordeal. Even if one isn’t among the many who end up being physically or sexually assaulted in the care of the state, there is the constant dehumanization, humiliation, stress, and threat of state and interpersonal violence in prison. It is like surviving a war zone; people there are the casualties and collateral damage of our economy, and we put many who have already been victimized in with serious predators. We put them into prison instead of hospitals or safe housing, where many might otherwise be.
Anyway, the contributions of lifers to others passing though their world can be of great value – I can think of a few people serving long sentences who have probably helped more than a handful of other prisoners leave prison more intact than they would be otherwise – which is a service to all of society. Charisse Schumate is an example of just one woman who died in prison saving the lives of fellow prisoners.
Of course, it would be much cheaper all the way around to send the Scott sisters home and let Jamie get community-based health care. Anyone who argues that they pose some kind of threat to society that justifies tens of thousands more dollars a year being spent on imprisoning them needs to take another look at who really endangers the American public: the real criminals all got bailouts last year, while the rest of us got laid off, driven into bankruptcy, and foreclosed on.
We all know that Jamie would not be seeking what should be lifesaving treatment in a prison trailer clinic if her family was wealthy. Socioeconomic class is not supposed to be the measure of the value of a person’s life, however – not by most religious or ethical standards; certainly not by Christian standards. Yet the State of Mississippi is able to imprison, bury and execute her (in that order) only because she is poor, and despite the lack of due process observed – due only upon receipt of payment, apparently – you consider her case to be closed and the sisters to be long since disposed of.
This kind of punishment and execution was not part of Jamie’s sentence, though. Those of you who are prison bureaucrats and medical professionals involved in the process of denying prisoners health care: be prepared to defend your actions against the people you’ve hurt, or stand with us and help us change the way your system routinely chews up poor people of every color (and no color at all) and calls it justice.
Arizona does that too, of course. They all do. That’s why we’re rising everywhere in resistance when we see this kind of thing happening anywhere. We may not have a lot of say in states where we aren’t residents, but we’re citizens of the US, and each of us has a core group of activists and two US senators (as well as a handful of congress members) we can lobby, and Mississippi may well become an example of what’s wrong with “corrections” in America today, not what’s being done right.
If that’s not a fair characterization, we encourage you to correct us with a reply. Perhaps we’ll end up lobbying for federal funds to help your state implement reforms you’ve been dying to make – as long as they’re the kind of reforms which lead us away from this madness instead of reinforcing the very foundations of the prison industrial complex. We will not be collaborators with you, but we will invite you to collaborate with us.
But first you must do something about the Scott Sisters. Have you ever even faced their family? Have the Scott sisters left anyone’s family grieving for them like Mississippi has?
You can expect a furious new Prison Watch to emerge from the heart of Mississippi out of this, where even more volunteers will amplify the Scott family’s voice, and those of other men and women who have been forgotten, neglected and abused in your prisons. They will work to protect and liberate prisoners of the state, and organize around not only the conditions they are subject to, but also around these larger issues of racism, classism, and misogyny as they are expressed in your own piece of our massive prison industrial complex. Lawmakers and law enforcement in Mississippi cannot claim ignorance or suggest that this kind of abuse of women prisoners when it comes to their health care is an aberration – or exaggeration – any further.
The truth will pour out of there in story after story like this as prisoners and their families, and ex-prisoners and honest public servants begin to amplify their voices. All the political tools of mass manipulation about prisons, criminals, and justice will be dragged out for critical analysis by the people who know how the system really works, what really goes on inside, how it got to be this way, and what needs to be done to change things. That’s what happens in state after state, once the websites go up. I suspect more people realize they don’t have to be ashamed for being or loving a prisoner and standing up for their rights, and they finally begin to talk about things they’ve had to hide. it’s very healing, I think. You can be the enemy they’re being hurt by, or you can join our side.
Unless it becomes part of the solution – whereas now it is apparently an obstruction – this administration at the Mississippi Department of Corrections may end up being retired before the current governor. As far as we’re concerned (that would be the collective “we” of the “America the beautiful” that Mississippi is a part of), the citizens you have the most immediate and pressing duty to protect are the ones who are vulnerable precisely because they are in your custody. If you can’t protect them from your own staff, prisoners, and machinery, you sure can’t be trusted with the rest of the public’s safety.
Jamie needs to get the best care possible so she can live long enough for both her and Gladys to be exonerated or pardoned. Bad enough that the state is responsible for wrongful imprisonment; it may be best not make it wrongful death, too.
We will continue to report and respond to updates from the Scott family. This post goes to Mississippi’s elected officials and the DOJ, as well as media, to make sure they are all on notice. And, of course, it’s going out to all of our sister prison watches as well.
Let’s fire up Mississippi.
Margaret J. Plews
Arizona Prison Watch
Nancy Lockhart sent a message to the members of Free The Scott Sisters.
Subject: SICKENING ROLLER-COASTER RIDE FOR JAMIE SCOTT!! ~ From Sis. Marpessa
SICKENING ROLLER-COASTER RIDE FOR JAMIE SCOTT!!
Mrs. Rasco was informed at 6:00 a.m. that Jamie Scott was returned to the prison infirmary after having been told that her body was full of toxins and that the medication she had been receiving at the prison contributed to the condition she is in today! In typical sadistic fashion, the prison told Jamie that they are not paying for her to have a special diet and that they will be moving her back to the horrible, leaky and moldy building where she was living. As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, she was further informed that she will be taken to a trailer to receive dialysis instead of the hospital!
While Atty Jaribu Hill is working on legal support for Jamie, we MUST continue to advocate for her. Mrs. Rasco wants us to flood the governor’s office as he has released inmates in the past who have been convicted of far worse crimes than which Jamie and Gladys are accused. Mississippi is also making
deep budget cuts which have included discussions around the release of inmates, and there is no reason on this earth why Jamie Scott should continue to be locked down in her serious medical condition, it is cruel, inhumane, and DEADLY, she has many aggravating conditions, is severely depressed, and there must be COMPASSION!
If you work in the medical field please make that known when calling/writing so that it can be made plain that there are medical professionals aware of this prison’s culpability in this previously healthy young woman’s deterioration into such a serious condition, which they continue to downplay to this very moment!
We also continue to feel strongly that if we could put the light of mainstream media on this case that it would make a huge difference. PLEASE include calls and e-mails to the media. If you’re from overseas, please make sure that they know that fact.
Thanks again to you all, we have an enormous fight on our hands and we need all of the help we can get! We know that they expect us to give up, but we must push even harder!
JAMIE SCOTT, #19197, IS SUFFERING CRUEL AND INHUMAN PUNISHMENT!
BE DIRECT BUT PLEASE BE COURTEOUS
Governor Haley Barbour
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