Life for an $11 Robbery

In February, 2009, I wrote a story about a tremendous injustice in Mississippi. Two young sisters were given life terms for a robbery that netted $11. They had already served over 15 years in prison for a crime they say they did not commit.

The case was brought to my attention by Nancy Lockhart, an advocate who had been fighting to free Gladys and Jamie Scott for years. Nancy had heard about my work as a freedom fighter and asked for my help. I told her I was bombarded with requests similar to hers all the time. After being granted clemency after serving 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a non-violent drug crime under New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, I developed a burning desire to help those that are imprisoned because of unjust laws.

I agreed to read the Scott sisters’ transcripts and realized that the only way they would regain their freedom would be through a pardon by the governor of Mississippi. Now, it seems that this is a distinct possibility thanks to the national exposure brought to their case by recent coverage in USA Today and the New York Times.

On Monday, Bob Herbert of the Times wrote a passionate plea for Governor Haley Barbour to give the sisters a pardon or commutation of their sentence. Herbert went on to say:

The appeals process for the women has long since been exhausted. It is up to Governor Barbour, who is considering petitions on the sisters’ behalf, to do the humane thing. A pardon or commutation of sentence — some form of relief that would release Jamie and Gladys Scott from the hideous shackles of a lifetime in prison — is not just desirable, it’s absolutely essential.

I agree. For those like the Scott sisters who have fallen through the cracks of the cruel criminal justice system, their only hope to regain their freedom is through public pressure on elected officials. I hope Governor Barbour will show campassion and give the Scott sisters the opportunity to be reunited with their family as soon as possible so they can end their living nightmare.

Please contact Governor Barbour by phone at 1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150 or email at

Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.