Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Best There Is

Being victims of a wrongful conviction--and as family of one who has been wrongly conviction, we are victims--has cast us into a world that we'd previously not seen. We've become acutely aware of the scope of the wrongful conviction problem, and we've come to see much more broadly how deeply flawed our system is. That puts at odds with some, many of whom chant the mantra, "it's the best system of justice there is." Maybe. Maybe Moe is the wittiest of the Three Stooges, too.

Perhaps our system stacks up well against those in Russia, and China--though we incarcerate many more than either country. When it comes to killing prisoners, we're in the top five (along with China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. We're ahead of Iraq).

But numbers don't tell the whole story. The experiences of people plainly told can reach out profoundly. Consider the Scott Sisters, Jamie and Gladys, who are serving double-life sentences after being convicted of taking part in a robbery that netted $11 and in which no one was injured. The details of their case provide strong evidence that the sisters, in fact, did not even participate in the crime, but they suffered conviction anyway.

Nancy Lockhart, who has worked tirelessly to free the Scott Sisters, recently shared some of Jamie's moving diary diary at Here's a brief extract:

When I entered prison at the tender age of 22, I felt like my world was coming apart and life was not worth living. There were no more secrets and I had to strip naked in front of everyone, including men, because they thought it was funny. I was made to spread my buttocks and the officer looked. If I had a gun, I would have ended my life right then.
For Jamie and many others there is little comfort in notion that our system is the "best."

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