Freed Mississippi Sisters Want To Help Troubled Youth

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour earlier this month indefinitely suspended the lifetime sentence of sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott in state prison. The condition of the sisters' release is that Gladys is required to donate a kidney to Jamie. Host Michel Martin speaks with the Scott Sisters about their newly-granted freedom, how the ordeal has impacted their family and their desire to work with troubled youth.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Next we turn to a story you probably heard about, about the Scott sisters: Jamie and Gladys Scott who are enjoying their first weeks of freedom since they were both convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a 1993 armed robbery, a robbery that authorities say netted somewhere between 11 and $200. They were released earlier this month when Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour indefinitely suspended their sentences.

One condition for the release: Governor Barbour said that Gladys must give a kidney to Jamie, who is suffering from kidney disease, provided that there is a match. The sisters are now living with their mother, children and grandchildren in Pensacola, Florida. And we are pleased that they are with us now. Thank you so much for joining us.

Ms. JAMIE SCOTT: Thank you for having me.

Ms. GLADYS SCOTT: Thank you for having us.

MARTIN: Jamie, you're the senior diva, correct?

Ms. J. SCOTT: Yes.

MARTIN: Because you are the elder. So I'll start with you. How are you doing?

Ms. J. SCOTT: Have a lot of appointments that I have to attend to, but other than that, I'm doing OK.

MARTIN: Gladys, how are you doing?

Ms. G. SCOTT: You know, I'm trying to help Jamie lose her weight and at the same time, I got to lose it too, so we're on a strict diet and we're trying to motivate each other because I really want to give my sister her kidney.

MARTIN: You each have children. And I just wanted to know what it's been like reconnecting with your children. Were you able to stay connected to them through the time that you were incarcerated? And what's it like being back home with them now? They have to be teenagers now.

Ms. G. SCOTT: This is Gladys. My daughter is 22. She was six years old when I was incarcerated. And Courtney is 15. I was four months pregnant when I entered the Mississippi Department of Corrections. And so we're trying to build that mother and daughter bond. And my oldest daughter, we're building that bond because she was six. So, she pretty much know me. But she had went through so much in her life. Both of them have.

And so we're trying to seek out counseling and stuff. We can't take the past away, but we can look for the future. And I plan on, you know, being a good mother and being there and support them any way I can.

MARTIN: Jamie, what about you?

Ms. J. SCOTT: My daughter was seven. She's 23 now. She's a big help because she know her way around Pensacola. She's been taking me and Gladys everywhere we needed to go for our appointments and doctor's appointments and everything such as that.

My son, he was 11 months old when I left. And he's fixing to be 18 and I can't wait to start going to his football games. And my other son, he was two when I left. He's 19 now. And we have a good relationship, also.

MARTIN: Were you able to see them when you were incarcerated?

Ms. J. SCOTT: Yes. For the first 10 years of our incarceration, they didn't miss a visitation. But when my mom moved to Pensacola, she - my mom have trouble seeing at night, so she tried to make it down to see us twice a year.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask, Gladys, if you don't mind, how you feel about the condition of your release? Does that seem OK to you?

Ms. G. SCOTT: You know, no. I really don't understand it. Because at the first - when my sister first told me that her kidneys had failed, I was willing to give her a kidney, and for him to make that condition, I really don't understand because I was willing to do it anyway.

MARTIN: Jamie, what do you think about it?

Ms. J. SCOTT: I don't like that deal that it seemed that she's being made. I don't think that he had to make her or make it a condition because she was going to do it regardless.

MARTIN: She would've gladly done so anyway.

Ms. J. SCOTT: Yes.

MARTIN: Well, can I ask you, though, the whole thing of your being free after 16 years? Were you together the whole time that you were in prison, by the way? Were you in the same facility the whole time?

Ms. G. SCOTT: We was in the same facility. After 10 years they separated us and moved Jamie to the other side of the prison.

MARTIN: Were you able to see each other?

Ms. G. SCOTT: They let us visit, like, twice a year.

MARTIN: Did you feel that you would ever be free? Jamie, I'll ask you first and then Gladys, I'll ask you that question as well. Jamie, you first. Did you think that you would be free at some point?

Ms. J. SCOTT: Even though all of our appeals had been denied and rejected, I kept believing that one day God was going to send somebody because I couldn't see a God allowing us to spend the rest of our life in prison for a crime we didn't commit.

MARTIN: Gladys, what about you?

Ms. G. SCOTT: Well, when my last appeal was denied, I had gave up hope. So, no, I really didn't. Right now it's still a dream that I'm sitting right here.

MARTIN: Gladys, what has been the most surprising thing about the whole journey to you? I was curious about whether you knew how many people were involved in trying to seek your release and what you think about that.

Ms. G. SCOTT: I had my mom and other people telling me, my lawyer and them was telling me and Nancy Lockhart, they was telling me and then when I started getting the letters from over in Africa and Kenya, all over the world, I knew then it was real. And then my mom was sending me emails and she was telling me how many supporters we had.

And then when the demonstrations went down in Jackson, Mississippi, when I saw all them peoples out there, I just fell on my knees and I just thank God, because I didn't know so many people love us and that were fighting for us and supporting us and it was just truly a blessing.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask, Jamie, why do you think so many people who don't even know you took an interest in your situation?

Ms. J. SCOTT: I would say our looks but that wasn't the case.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. J. SCOTT: I would say that people had opportunity to read the transcript for themselves to make their own judgment. And when people read the transcript, a lot of people was angry. It feel like it was just unjust, giving someone a double life sentence, no one was killed, no one was hospitalized for $11. And I think that people wanted to fight it.

MARTIN: I do feel that I have to ask, and I know that your attorney is on the line, he's not there with you at the moment. But I do feel I do have to ask on behalf of our listeners, what is your statement about the events of that night? I do feel it is my responsibility to ask you, were you involved in this robbery or not?

Ms. J. SCOTT: No we...

Ms. G. SCOTT: No.

Ms. J. SCOTT: We was not involved in the robbery. We can't give you a statement about the facts of that night because we're working on something else to try to get a full pardon.

MARTIN: I see. What would you like us to learn from what happened?

Ms. J. SCOTT: This is Jamie. I would like for people to learn and understand never take anything for granted. Don't think that the law can't touch you. Just understand that the same thing that happened to Gladys and I can also happen to the next-door neighbor, can happen to the lady in the grocery store because, you now, it don't have no certain age, no certain gender, no certain race. It can happen to anyone and we just trying to bring awareness. To let people know to be careful and to watch your surroundings and watch who you hang with.

MARTIN: Gladys, what about you? Do you have anything to say about what you think, what we should learn from this?

Ms. G. SCOTT: This could happen to you because me and my sister is innocent. When they feel like they shouldn't do something that's going to break the law, think about Jamie and Gladys Scott and how hard they had to fight to get, you know, they(ph) freedom. Because the state told me that me and Jamie wouldn't be free 'til 2014.

We would've been eligible for parole, which made us done 20 years. But the parole board have the right to say no, I don't want to grant them parole or yes, I want to grant it. But we sitting here today and it's 2011. So that's what we want them to look at and we're going to continue to fight this fight for a full pardon.

MARTIN: May I ask, what has been the thing that has surprised you most since you have been released from prison, Jamie?

Ms. J. SCOTT: The most surprising thing for me is how people is still saying that the fight is not over. Just because Gladys and I are released people need to understand we are mentally incarcerated because we have to go through so many changes, we have to follow so many criterias(ph) while we out on parole and people are still fighting. They say they are not want to stop fighting until he gives us a full pardon or we don't have to look over our shoulder.

MARTIN: OK. Gladys, what about you?

Ms. G. SCOTT: We free from prison but we still have prison in our mind and we have to go by rules and regulations. And there's certain things, you know, I can't vote. It's certain places I can go to. It's sad but like Jamie said, we going to keep on fighting. April the 1st we doing a demonstration in Jackson, Mississippi asking Haley Barbour to pardon us. And so we just asking everybody to come out and support us on that day.

MARTIN: I hate to ask this but I do want to ask, what if, Gladys, what if you're not a match for Jamie? What happens?

Ms. G. SCOTT: I'm not looking at that. I'm having faith in God that I am a match for my sister.

MARTIN: Gladys, what's the next chapter of our life? If we get together five years from now, what are we going to be talking about?

Ms. G. SCOTT: Five years from now...

MARTIN: Yeah.

Ms. G. SCOTT: I hope that I'll be going around to different colleges and different schools, you know, speaking, telling my testimony and going back to school because I want to become a counselor. I want to work with youth offenders.

MARTIN: And Jamie, what about you?

Ms. J. SCOTT: Getting the surgery done, being able to live a life without the machine. Being able to go to different alternative school and talk to troubled teen, and trying to help give back to those who gave to me.

MARTIN: And by the machine, you mean the dialysis machine.

Ms. J. SCOTT: Yes, the dialysis machine.

MARTIN: Well good luck with the get in shape initiative. I know a lot of us are struggling with that, so we'll look to you for inspiration and hopefully it'll be a two-way street.

Jamie Scott and Gladys Scott are sisters. Their life term prison sentences were recently suspended by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. They had been convicted of an armed robbery that authorities said amounted somewhere between 11 and $200. They're now living with family in Florida and they spoke to us from NPR member station WUWF in Pensacola, Florida.

Ladies, thank you so much for joining us.

Ms. J. SCOTT: Thank you.

Ms. G. SCOTT: Thank you.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.