Why I’m a monthly sustainer

Interview with Jeannine Scott


By: Randi Jones Hensley

This program makes it easy for everyone to help support the fight to abolish the death penalty, no matter where you are or how limited your time is. Once a month, funds are automatically taken out of your account or charged to your credit card, and donated to the CEDP. These funds are used for publishing the New Abolitionist, taking prisoner phone calls, putting on national CEDP tours, sending out mailings and sustaining the work at our national office.

To join this important program, visit our website at nodeathpenalty.org or contact Lily Hughes at lily@nodeathpenalty.org. You can donate as little as $5 a month, more if you are able.

To all of our sustainers, we thank each and every one of you for helping the CEDP do what it does every day.

In this issue, Randi Jones Hensley spoke to Jeannine Scott, a longtime CEDP member. Jeannine became active with the CEDP in Austin while fighting tirelessly to see her husband freed from prison. He was freed in 2009, and they currently live in Iowa.

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How did you get involved with the ­Campaign to End the Death Penalty?

I got involved with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty through a situation with my husband and the Yogurt Shop Case.

Four teenage girls were murdered, and 10 years later, the state decided to charge four men who had been teenagers themselves at the time of the crime. One they weren’t able to indict at all; one they weren’t able to take to trial; one was sentenced to death; and one, my husband, Michael, was sentenced to life. The district attorney eventually dropped the charges because of new DNA evidence, although she’s still trying to figure out how to pin it on these guys.

What are some of the things that you and the CEDP did to see Michael freed and for other cases?

We discussed cases, Michael’s and others, in detail, so we could familiarize ourselves with the cases, which is sometimes a challenge, because all facts aren’t always readily available. We had rallies to raise public awareness about things that the mainstream media won’t talk about.

What are some of the challenges that people like Michael face when they get out of prison?

There’s the stigma of being previously incarcerated. For some people, the perception is still that this person is a criminal or a violent person. Of course, there are challenges of gainful employment. Even if they have served their time and been released, the state doesn’t do anything to help these people be ready for life on the outside.

They’re not ready for changes that have happened, be it technological or cultural. With limited job skills, finding employment is very difficult, especially if the system doesn’t provide educational opportunities. And there are also challenges to rebuild your interpersonal relationships after being isolated in a cell every day. It can be a challenge to reconnect with your family.

You have a wonderful daughter who is a member of Kids Against the Death Penalty. What impact do you see the criminal justice system having on ­children of those who are incarcerated?

When you have a family member who is incarcerated, especially when you’re a child, and it’s a parent, you have lost an opportunity to grow up with that individual in your day-to-day life. It’s a very difficult thing for people to understand the impact for that child. Statistics show that children of those who are incarcerated often end up incarcerated themselves, which is a horrible thing that we need to put an end to.

They’re missing out on the love from that individual. They don’t have an opportunity to see interactions between their mother and father. They can’t learn those lessons from watching interactions between people in their family. It leaves a hole in their life.

Why do you think grassroots organizations like the CEDP are so important?

The system is a monstrous beast and will do nothing without pressure. The politicians will do nothing without being forced to. Voting people into office is a great thing, but it is not enough. If the masses are ignorant about what’s going on, they’re not going to push for the changes that enhance our country as a whole.

The only way to change things is to get the word out. You have to be a voice in the street, a voice that cannot be ignored.

What is so special about the CEDP?

The CEDP focuses on individual cases and helps put a face on the problem. It gives support emotionally and gives people an avenue to speak out and work out the anger and frustration in a way that is healthy and helps educate the public.

Why is it important for you to give financially to the CEDP?

Now that I live in a state that doesn’t have the death penalty, it’s difficult to get people to do something about the neighboring states. My direct street involvement isn’t what it used to be, which is something I miss. I want to continue to support the CEDP financially, so at least I know that newsletters are getting spread to people in prison and to people who don’t know what a travesty our criminal justice and death penalty truly are.

What are some of the ways donations are used?

The CEDP utilizes the finances for a number of things. It’s used for our publications, it’s used to help fund activities where we have family members and exonorees come to speak to groups in the community. Having someone tell you about what they’ve experienced is very moving.