Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Barbour and the Scott Sisters: Beyond Race at BlogHer

My essay "Haley Barbour Will Free the Scott Sisters: Beyond Race to the Bitter Aftertaste" has just been published at I'm definitely happy that the sisters will walk freely away from a Mississippi prison; however, I don't think joy for them, their five children, their grandchildren, siblings, and their mother, Evelyn Rasco, should divert voter attention from the governor's hypocritical proposal following his announcement to suspend the sisters' sentence.

Did you know that Barbour has asked Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps to review the cases of all state prisoners on dialysis and decide whether they are "fit for release"? His reasoning for this appears to be the same he used to explain to his conservative constituents why he was releasing the Scott Sisters. He's argued that it's silly for Mississippi to keep paying for Jamie Scott's medical treatment when that cost could "spread over all the taxpayers in the United States" via Medicaid. (I think Mississippi should pay because it was its crooked system that put her behind bars in the first place. She entered prison healthy and three years later had diabetes and high blood pressure.)

Let me be clear that I think Jamie and Gladys should have been released, but I also think that the injustice of their sentences, "double life to be served consecutively," not to mention some pretty fishy circumstances of their actual conviction, were good enough reasons to free them. Anything else is slimy, political positioning. Consequently, I am very suspicious of how Barbour has framed the suspension of their sentences.

At least one expert who commented suggested in another state, Barbour's request to review the cases of sick inmates and release them for service on the Medicaid rolls would smack of fraud in another state. It galls me that the man making this proposal is a States Rights advocate who's compared health care reform for the nation to "mass suicide."

O.K. I'm fired up. Read more the full essay at

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