When Glennese Smith Scott, 33, of Natchez, Mississippi reported deputies at the Adams County Jail for mistreatment of inmates in 2003, she was speaking out against injustice and trying to raise awareness of the inhumane conditions that many African-American inmates face in a legal system riddled with racial disparities.
But in trying to give voice to the voiceless in a small town arguably still entrenched Mississippi’s “Good ole’ Boy” system, Scott claims that she found herself simultaneously cast as criminal and victim to one of the most heart-wrenching tragedies that can befall a woman – and has been met with a brick wall of silence and bureaucracy ever since.
On November 2, 2003, she was allegedly told by law enforcement officers that she was a fugitive from justice – stemming from a shoplifting charge in Louisiana – and subsequently arrested and detained for seventeen days by the Adams County Sheriff’s Department.
Complaining of feeling ill to officers on duty, and eventually writing a letter to the captain on duty explaining that she might be pregnant, Scott says that she was consistently ignored and forced to suffer behind bars for weeks. It wasn’t until November 18, 2003, the day that Scott claims to have fallen unconscious after complaining of dizziness and weakness, that the Adams County Sheriff’s Department was forced to pay attention.
But her nightmare was just beginning.
“When I came to I was being handcuffed and my ankles were in restraints,” Scott recalls in a haunted voice throbbing with anger. “And I was driven by deputies in a police car to Natchez Regional Medical Center.
“During my visit to the emergency room, I found out that I was in fact pregnant with twins and I was told that I was threatening a miscarriage and I had a urinary tract infection. I was later released from the hospital back to the Adams County Sheriff’s Department. I was told a couple hours after returning to the jail that I was free to go home.
“On December 2, 2003, less than two weeks of being released from the jail I miscarried both babies one on the way to the hospital and the other at the hospital.”
While working to mend her reputation, left in tatters after the false fugitive charges were published in the local newspaper, Scott has never stopped seeking justice for herself and for her unborn children. But the road, paved with racism and cronyism, has not been easy.
For close to 10 years, Scott navigated through a revolving door of attorneys balanced precariously on the slow-moving wheels of justice. She claims that one firm even stated that it was a conflict of interest with the state of Mississippi for them to handle her case. It seemed as if all hope was lost until Attorney Martin Perkins of Jackson, MS, agreed to take her on as a client. Perkins immediately filed the appropriate documentation and got a trial date set for September 16, 2013; but earlier this month, he received an unexpected letter and the events that followed may have damaged an already fragile case.
Allegedly given only 2 days notice, Perkins was told to appear in court on April 2, 2013. According to Scott, it was only upon his arrival that Perkins realized that the appearance was pivotal to the case and her presence was required. Once it became clear that she was not there, and without a shred of evidence, Scott claims that Judge Lily Blackmon Sanders dismissed the case.
Scott, now a published author and social worker with her Master’s Degree in Counseling, has continuously tried to view the court transcript, but claims that her case file has not been updated to reflect that a hearing even occurred – and that she has been consistently rebuffed when she calls for answers.
“So much has gone wrong with this case,” said a justifiably frustrated Scott. “I have a written statement from Sheriff Ronny Brown himself stating that I had never been arrested by his agency. Where did my arrest record disappear to and why? I have supporting documents of all these allegations but a lot of unanswered questions. This is a small town where the majority rules, I reported some law officers who I saw mistreating inmates and this is the thanks I get. I get arrested, my reputation is ruined, I lost two children, and I can’t get an answer as to why this was done to me.
“I feel that no matter who I turn to in Natchez I will always get the door slammed in my face because I am outspoken and do care about how the citizens of Natchez are being treated,” Scott continued.
Scott is not alone in having to fight for her dignity in a legal system where that fundamental right should be guaranteed.
According to the extensive and illuminating report, “Pregnant Women Inmates: Evaluating Their Rights And Identifying Opportunities For Improvements In Their Treatment,” in the Journal For Law and Health, pregnant women, particularly African-American pregnant women, are extremely underserved and Scott’s devastating loss is not uncommon:
“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has the most comprehensive standards for the treatment of pregnant women, their standards do not address the needs of incarcerated women,” according to Barry, while guidelines for their care
provided by National Commission on Correctional Health Care are vague. Although the needs of pregnant women have long been apparent to those who incarcerate them, these women remain ignored in some facilities resulting in unnecessary abuse and in harm—occasionally fatal, perhaps preventable—to their babies.
In November 2011, ACOG, a professional organization of medical doctors specializing in Obstetrics and Gynecology, published its Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women Committee Opinion, Health Care for Pregnant and Postpartum Incarcerated Women, reports ACLU.org. In this opinion, ACOG clearly states:
“The use of restraints on pregnant incarcerated women and adolescents may not only compromise health care but is demeaning and rarely necessary.”
In addition to explaining the medical risks of restraining pregnant inmates, the ACOG also opines that women should be “assessed for pregnancy risks at intake.” Undoubtedly, to avoid being restrained in the first place and placing their unborn children’s lives at risk – and so that jails and prisons can avoid legal action being taking against them.
In light of the negligent and dehumanizing way that Scott claims that she was treated, it should come as no surprise that of all the states listed on the ACLU’s website, Mississippi is one of the scant few that have no policies and laws listed pertaining to their treatment of pregnant women.
But Scott, armed with documentation and conviction, is not giving up.
I need answers at this point and it’s not about the money, it’s about justice being served,” she said with a focused calm born from battling the justice system for close to a decade. “I am a citizen of the United States and I do have rights.”