Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Freedom Riders Respond To Barbour

A number of the Freedom Riders who petitioned Mississippi governor Haley Barbour for mercy for the Scott sisters have sent the governor the following letter:

A Conditional Thank You for Your Release of the Scott Sisters
An Open Letter to Governor Halley Barbour
From 1961 Freedom Riders

Dear Governor Barbour,

          You may remember that last October over fifty of us Freedom Riders, most of us arrested in Mississippi, wrote asking you to commute the Scott sisters’ sentence. We never herd from you and now your recent release of the sisters has produced among us a mix of gratitude and dismay.

          As you may also remember the original letter was based on our empathy for their imprisonment in the very State where we were imprisoned, the result of a gross injustice. So, while we are grateful for their release we are also appalled that in justifying your action you totally ignore the injustice done to them – two life sentences for an alleged $11.00 crime. Instead you make their release contingent upon a kidney transplant. Which turns what could have been a real act of justice and compassion into a trade deal – exchanging freedom for a human organ.

          Yes, Gladys has for a long time expressed a desire to donate a kidney to her sister. But, as Bob Herbert wrote in the New York Times (January 1 2011) “to make that a condition of her release was unnecessary, mean spirited and potentially coercive. It was a low thing to do.” And after her serving 16 years of her life time sentence, apparently, you action was not an expression of real concern for Jamie’s health. 

          In your statement announcing the sisters’ sentence suspension you said, “Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott’s medical condition creates a substantial cost to the state of Mississippi.”

          Not only is this an immoral quid pro quo it may even be illegal as Associated Press reporter Holbrook Mohr wrote in an article carried by the San Francisco Chronicle (December 31, 2010) He quotes Dr. Michael Shapiro, chief of organ transplants at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, “’If the governor is trading someone …for a kidney that might potentially violate the valuable consideration clause in federal regulations.’ That clause is meant to prohibit the buying and selling of organs.”

          Governor Barbour, when the State of Mississippi frees the Scott sisters and pays for Jamie Scott’s transplant we will be delighted to send you an unconditional thank you. Until then you have one as conditional as your conditional release – freedom for less than a pound of flesh – a thank you for a political act made to look like an act of compassion. 

Philip M. Posner, Ajijic, Mexico (chatrabbi@aol.com), 
Steve McNichols, San Francisco, Calif., 
Dan Stevens, Chicago, Ill, 
Thomas Armstrong, Naperville Ill., 
Charles Person, Atlanta Ga., 
Rick Sheviakov, San Anselmo, Calif, 
Ellen Ziskind, Brookline, Ma., 
Robert Farrel, Los Angeles, Calif., 
Bob Zellner, Southampton, NY, 
Lew Zuchman, NY, NY, 
Paul Breines, Boston, Ma., 
Ed Johnson, Inglewood, Calif

Subsequent to the sending of the letter. the following Freedom Riders have asked that their names he added as co-signers:
 George Blevins, Nederland, Colo.
David B. Fankhauser, Batavia,
Tom Roland 
Catherine Burks-Brooks, Birmingham, Ala.

To add your name to the extended list of signers, please contact Phil Posner at chatrabbi @ aol.com.

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