Category: mercy

The Scott sisters are free!

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.

Scott Sisters Released From Mississippi Prison; Transplant Next?

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. (more…)

Faith and Mass Incarceration

By Dr. Charles Kiker

Faith played a major role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and the concomitant dismantling of the old Jim Crow. To be sure, not all people of faith, maybe not even a majority and certainly not a majority in the South, held the Civil Rights movement in high regard. I remember hearing one active Baptist layman say shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, “He was a dadblamed communist, and somebody should have killed him a long time ago.”

But the faith and the liberation songs inspired by the Exodus from Egypt helped to sustain the civil rights movement through fire hoses, police dogs, beatings, and murders. And the civil rights movement insured the demise of Jim Crow I. The progress of the mid-twentieth century civil rights movement created an officially color blind society. (more…)

Pardons in a punitive age

By Alan Bean

‘Tis the season for executive pardons–or at least it used to be. 

The editorial board of the Washington Post is criticizing President Obama for making nine trifling pardons, most of which involve small crimes that date back decades. 

In a slashing opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News, Scott Henson of Grits for Breakfast questions the prevailing practice of handing out a few scattered pardons like Christmas presents while ignoring entire categories of people who have fallen victim to ill-considered policies like putting non-violent citizens  in prison for simple pot possession.

Meanwhile, NYT columnist Bob Herbert takes a stripe out of Mississippi Governor Hailey Barbour and the political establishment of Mississippi for their shabby treatment of the Scott sisters. (more…)

Hailey Barbour suspends Scott sisters’ sentences

Governor Hailey Barbour has suspended the sentences of Gladys and Jamie Scott.  As the announcement appears below indicates, this was a political compromise.  According to the governor’s announcement, “The Mississippi Parole Board reviewed the sisters’ request for a pardon and recommended that I neither pardon them, nor commute their sentence.”  If no one in the wider world was paying attention, this would have been the end of the matter.  But thanks to Nancy Lockhart, the civil rights community is well aware of this egregious case and, with Mr. Barbour already on the hot seat for his racial tin ear he had good reason to look for a third way. (more…)

Georgia prisoners strike for human rights

By Alan Bean

On December 9, prisoners at six Georgia state prisons launched a coordinated strike.  The silence from the mainstream media has been thundering.

Across America, prison labor remains a vestige of the old convict leasing system that Robert Perkinson describes in great detail in Texas Tough.  Some inmates receive nominal wages–ranging from a dollar a day to a princely forty cents an hour; others, like the striking inmates in Georgia, work for nothing.

When discussing prison labor, it is important to avoid vague generalities.  Every state has its own laws and practices vary widely.  Sloppy references to the “prison industrial complex” can conjure images of multinational corporations earning massive profits from unreimbursed prison labor.  This happens, to be sure, but more prison labor involves chores related to prison life: preparing meals, doing laundry, cleaning floors, landscaping, gardening and, in some prisons, large-scale agriculture.  In most cases, private corporations aren’t involved, but there are plenty of exceptions.

It has been estimated that 80,000 inmates in America work directly for corporate interests, which suggests that only one-in-twenty-eight American inmates fall into this category.  Most inmate labor mitigates the cost of incarceration–one reason why, since the days of convict leasing, it has been so popular. (more…)

You can help the Scott Sisters

Nancy Lockhart has been working behind the scenes to bring the plight of Jamie and Gladys Scott to national attention.  Interest in the story spiked recently but, with no recent developments, interest is beginning to flag.  Nancy would like you to get personally involved.  The message below tells you how.

Alan Bean

Message from Nancy Lockhart

Jamie and Gladys Scott both went before the Mississippi Board of Pardons and Parole today. Results from this hearing are unknown at this time. Please continue to call and e-mail governor Haley Barbour’s Office in support of their release. Each call and e-mail is very important! (more…)

The Advent Spirit in a Detroit Courtroom

This reflection originally appeared in the Huffington Post

The Advent Spirit in a Detroit Courtroom

By Mark Osler

Twelve years ago, it was a particularly bad day in Detroit. A storm came through as the temperature hovered just below freezing, and the precipitation switched between freezing rain and snow, making any outdoor movement treacherous.

At the time, I was a federal prosecutor. Ours was a tight office, and when something interesting happened in the courts, we all found out about it almost instantaneously. We were fascinated by the judges we appeared before, so any rumors about them were especially flammable.

On the day of that storm, a particularly intriguing story blasted through our offices. As I heard it, one of the magistrate judges had presided over a detention hearing, in which he considered whether a defendant should be held in jail or released prior to trial. The magistrate heard evidence and argument, and finally ruled against us: He held that the defendant should be released on bond. The man likely was not a big-time criminal, but a drug addict involved in low-level crime to support his habit.

That was not the end of the story, though. (more…)