Stories of this type remind all that cruelty and inhumanity are never very far removed.
A South Carolina restaurant manager was directed by a court to pay over $500,000 to a Black youth with mental disabilities who was virtually enslaved by him for over five years and forced to work 100 hours per week under physical and verbal abuse.
The bizarre event began in 2009 when the manager installed the youth in an apartment he owned, essentially imprisoning the employee. According to court records, the youth was falsely told his wages were being maintained in a bank account for him.
In 2014, a local resident reported the situation to state authorities, resulting in a guilty plea in 2018 to one count of forced labor for using violence and other coercive means. As part of the guilty plea, the offender was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay the youth $272,953 in restitution. An appeal followed with a finding in April 2021 that the initial amount was in error because it failed to take into account liquidated damages as required under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The appellate ruling boosted the total to over $545,000.
The restitution, if it is ever paid, cannot restore five years of imprisonment.
For most folks, those in prison are out of sight and out of mind. A story from Iowa reminds that imprisoned offenders are human beings.
A prison nurse and corrections officer were killed in an attempted escape by two inmates. The inmates are now on trial for several felony charges, including murder. In the wake of the event, across the state’s nine prison facilities, $11,000 has been raised from inmates for the families of the two slain workers. Prison pay scales provide incarcerated individuals from 27 cents per hour to $1.92 in prison work programs, depending on their jobs and how long they have continuously worked. According to prison spokespersons, the contributions are not unique, as other campaigns for Habitat for Humanity and Meals from the Heartland have also occurred.
An advocate for inmates told a local paper, “What that says to me is that the people who are incarcerated in prison, that I have contact with . . . they are very caring people, they feel awful about what happened, and their hearts go out to these family members.”
Were the compassion of the Iowa prison population reciprocated by those who sentenced them, a world of change could result for both.
An old advertising slogan ran, “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.” The modernized version of the jingle might be heard as “You’ll wonder where democracy went when you vote for an elephant.”
In the face of overwhelming GOP victories in national and state balloting, Missouri voters, during the state’s August primaries, approved a Medicaid expansion that was estimated to cover nearly 300,000 low-income residents. Although the GOP-dominated political establishment urged rejection, 53% ignored them and passed the ballot measure amending the state constitution for this purpose.
Dutifully, the GOP governor included financing in the budget submitted to the state legislature and watched as members stripped out the funding. The expansion would cost about $130 million but would be more than matched by federal funds estimated at $1.4 billion. Additional federal relief would also be available under the COVID relief package.
The helpless, now hapless, Republican governor formally withdrew Medicaid funding from the budget proposal submitted to the legislature. This retreat failed to argue the financial arithmetic that would have brought a billion-dollar bonus in aid to the state.
The result for the Show Me state is that it now has a constitutional mandate that is being canceled or ignored by the GOP, which has shown the voters its true colors: “Elect us to represent you but not to listen to your voice.” The characterization of the GOP as the cancel democracy party has gained another notch in the elephant’s hide.