The Scott sisters have now been released from prison. After a brief story from AOL (immediately below) I have pasted an excerpt from the Clarion-Ledger dealing with the controversy over Governor Haley Barbour’s stipulation that Gladys Scott’s release is contingent upon her willingness to donate a kidney to Jamie Scott.
Jamie and Gladys Scott, the Mississippi sisters who became a cause celebre among civil rights activists, were released from prison today after serving 16 years for an armed robbery that netted $11.
Their life sentences were suspended by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour last month, with the unusual condition that one sister donate her kidney to the other, who is sick and needs a transplant.
Their attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, said the sisters were exuberant as they were released to their mother and children from a prison in Pearl, Miss., at 8 a.m.
“They’re feeling great. This is beautiful,” Lumumba told AOL News today by phone. “I feel like a young fella myself.”
In 1994, the Mississippi women were convicted of armed robbery for hitting two men on the head with the butt of a shotgun in Forest, Miss., and stealing $11. For years, activists have said the sisters received such harsh sentences because they are black.
Jamie Scott, 38, is on dialysis and needs a kidney transplant. Gladys, 36, had already agreed to donate one of her kidneys to Jamie when Barbour included the stipulation as part of their release, but his decision still raised some eyebrows. In December, Lumumba told AOL News that while the arrangement “does sound a little barbaric,” Gladys would have donated the kidney anyway.
Lumumba said the sisters must undergo more medical tests before the transplant can take place. He said it’s not clear how the operation will be paid for, either. “We still need Medicaid to handle the bill,” he said. “Or we’ll be looking for donors to help us.”
Governor Haley Barbour’s stipulation that Gladys donate a kidney to her ailing sister, Jamie has created considerable controversy. Consider this excerpt from today’s story in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:
Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said he has never heard of an organ donation becoming a condition of release.
“This raises several ethical issues,” said Caplan, who has more than 25 years of experience in the field.
Caplan said the agreement gives the impression Gladys Scott is trading a kidney for her release.
“The governor basically – either out of ignorance or indifference – stepped on an ethical framework that was established 50 years ago,” he said. “When he says, ‘you have to do it,’ it puts her in a situation where she cannot back out.”
Whether Gladys Scott, 36, will be an organ match for her sister or whether she has any health complications that could prevent the procedure has to be determined.
“Prisoners are usually too sick or have too many infectious diseases to be good organ donors,” Caplan said.
The governor’s office has not said what will happen if Gladys Scott is unable to go through with the donation.
“All of the ‘What if’ questions at this point are purely hypothetical,” Barbour said. “We’ll deal with those situations if they happen.”
Rasco said the family does not know how it will pay for Jamie Scott’s dialysis treatments or the eventual transplant.
“We’re trying to set up all of the medical stuff,” she said. “I just don’t know.”
She said supporters are considering establishing a fund to help cover medical expenses.
“Medicaid should cover Jamie’s dialysis,” their attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, said.
Supporters said they have not yet determined how much of the transplant would be covered, though.
“I would think it will cost a lot so we may be having some kind of a fundraiser.”
Rasco said Florida officials told her that her daughters will be required to pay the state $52 a month, unless that amount is waived because of Jamie’s medical condition.
The sisters, who will remain on probation for the rest of their lives, are required to report to the Florida Department of Corrections probation office before Jan. 18, agency spokeswoman Jo Ellyn Rackleff said.
“They will simply show up and tell us they are in Pensacola,” she said. “The official documents from Mississippi will be examined, and the offenders will be told what will be expected of them in Florida. They will be assigned a probation officer.”
The sisters originally had petitioned for a pardon, which they still can seek at a later date.
Barbour’s decision to suspend the sentences indefinitely drew praise from the NAACP – a group that condemned him a week before for remarks that he made about a segregationist group.
Barbour, who is harboring presidential aspirations, faced intense criticism several weeks ago for his description of the segregationist Citizens Council as “town leaders” who kept the KKK at bay in civil rights-era Yazoo City, his hometown.