Jan 03, 2011

The Scott Sisters: My Kingdom for a Kidney

In December 2010, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour commuted the life sentences of sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott- so long as Gladys donates one of her kidneys to her ill sister within a year.

Gov. Barbour's decision is probably illegal as well as impractical. He is in essence charging Gladys the value of her kidney to secure parole. Yet parole is supposed to recognize inmates' rehabilitation, not their ability to pay for their releases. And what will the Governor do if it turns out that Gladys is not a suitable kidney donor-- throw her back in prison?   

Turns out that the sisters were serving a life sentence for a robbery that netted them a total of $11.  But if a life sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment for their crime, their release should have been based on that reason rather than Gladys' willingness to donate a kidney.

On the other hand, think of the possibilities if Gov. Barbour's decision starts a trend. States may set up parole conditions that resemble insurance policies that pay people amounts that differ according to the body part that an insured person loses. Donation of kidneys or liungs are biggies, worth a sentence reduction of at least 5-10 years.  Donation of a spleen?  Not so important, maybe advance a parole date by a few months. Donation of a brain to Gov. Barbour?  Priceless.