Since Christmas we’ve been talking about the story of Betsie Gallardo, a woman who is dying of cancer in a Florida prison.
When we last met, she was being starved to death, literally, at the direction of the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC), who had decided not only to withhold further treatment for her inoperable cancer, but to withdraw nutritional support as well.
Her adopted mother is fighting to have her discharged from prison so that she can die at home-and the DOC have recommended that she be released.
On December 9th, Florida’s Board of Executive Clemency (“the Board”) chose to ignore the DOC advice.
Since then, thanks to a whole bunch of outside pressure, things have changed, for the better, which we’ll be talking about today.
On January 5th, the Board meets again-and if we do this right, we can bring some closure to this story.
The clouds dispell’d, the sky resum’d her light,
And Nature stood recover’d of her fright.
But fear, the last of ills, remain’d behind,
And horror heavy sat on ev’ry mind.
–Taken from “Theodore and Honoria, from Boccace“, by John Dryden
In our two previous stories we’ve discussed how Betsie Gallardo came to be in the position of facing intentional starvation while a prisoner of the State of Florida and how a variety of people who are in similar situations have been granted either clemency or a pardon by the very same Board, even as she has not.
Today we want to talk about what’s next-and since we want to keep a sense of balance in our work, we’ll also acknowledge some of the folks in Florida who are working hard to do the right thing for all concerned.
Best of all, we get to present some very good news-and this is one of those times when I’m happy to give you the good news first…and I’ll give it to you directly from Betsie’s adopted mother, Jessica Bussert.
“As of the other day Betsie has finally started IV nutritional therapy and is already responding wonderfully.”
That’s right: thanks to all of your efforts-and those of a lot of others besides–Betsie has in fact been moved to a local hospital after nearly four weeks of no feedings, which is a fantastic victory in itself, even if it’s not the whole story.
So here’s what’s next: tomorrow, January 5th, the Florida Parole Commission has another meeting-and among the questions they may choose to decide is if they’ll accept the DOCs recommendation that Gallardo be released to die at home…and naturally, we want to influence that decision in her favor as best we can, so if you haven’t yet, today is the day to get in contact with the members of the Board, and I’ll give you the information you need to do that a bit farther down in the story.
But before we do that, let’s recognize some of the do-gooders in this story:
Jessica Bussert wants me to remind you that Commissioner Frederick B. Dunphy, of the Florida Parole Commission, was an early advocate for Betsie, and that he helped to get her case a badly-needed rehearing.
She also wants us to be aware that State Representatives Daphne Campbell and Hazelle Rogers and State Senator Christopher Smith (who Chairs Broward County’s legislative delegation) were among a group of seven Florida legislators who formally requested her compassionate release, and that they’ve also written to the Governor, Charlie Crist, with the same request.
Bil Browning also has a story up that gives a lot more credit where credit is due and also points you to a petition you can sign…so have a look there as well.
Now, with the Parole Commission meeting tomorrow, you’ll want the appropriate email and other contact information for the three Commissioners, so here we go:
Chairman Tena M. Pate
Fax (850) 414-2627
Vice Chairman Monica David
Fax (850) 487-1220
Commissioner Frederick B. Dunphy
Fax (850) 414-6031
Emails can be sent to the Commission’s public affairs representatives at firstname.lastname@example.org
So that’s where we’re at: Betsie is being fed, which, thanks to all y’all, means half the battle is already won; tomorrow is the next chance to obtain a decision that would get her released-and public pressure has been working rather well so far.
So let’s make one last push and see if we can’t start a new year by bringing this story to an end…and if we can, it’ll be a good day for not only Betsie and Jessica, but for Florida as well.