Gov. Haley Barbour has issued orders for the release of Jamie and Gladys Scott, sisters serving life sentences for a 1993 armed robbery. Barbour granted the Scott sisters an indefinite suspension of their sentences, which is "tantamount to parole," he said in a statement posted on his website this afternoon.
A large movement of civil-rights advocates and online activists has lobbied for the sisters' release, arguing that their sentences are disproportionately severe for an armed robbery that allegedly netted as little as $11. The sisters have spent 16 years in prison, and Jamie Scott is currently suffering from total kidney failure.
Reached by phone en route to the grocery store, the Scott sisters' mother, Evelyn Rasco, had to pull her car over upon hearing news of Barbour's order.
"Oh my God. You're kidding me," Rasco said. "Oh, please--oh my God." Rasco said that she had not been informed of the governor's decision but had plans to listen to Charles Evers' radio show this evening, on which Barbour is scheduled to appear as a guest.
Nancy Lockhart, a South Carolina-based activist who has worked with Rasco since 2005 to publicize the sisters' case, said that she looked forward to meeting the women she has only known through letters and phone calls.
"I am elated," Lockhart said. "I would like to thank Governor Barbour, and I can't wait to meet to meet Jamie and Gladys."