James Verone lost his job of 17 years as a Coca-Cola deliveryman. He tried unsuccessfully to find steady work. He lost his health insurance when he lost his job. He suffered chronic back pain and endured severe pain in his left foot that caused him to limp. When he discovered a lump in his chest, he became desperate.
At 1 p.m. on June 9, in Gastonia, N.C., Verone walked into a bank, handed a teller a note demanding one dollar and claimed to have a gun. As the teller frantically called 911, Verone sat down on a sofa and waited for the police, according to ABC News reports.
If one trait of a good employee is to think outside the box, then, when it comes to health care, Verone has demonstrated that capability. He is receiving good health care in jail.
Verone is not the only one who thinks that providing our most vulnerable citizens with the benefits received by prisoners is a good idea. Nathan Bootz, superintendent of Ithaca Public Schools in Michigan, wrote a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder with the following suggestion to solve the school district’s financial problems:
"Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we do not provide to our school children.
"This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!
"Please provide for my students in my school district the same way we provide for a prisoner. …"
In America you can be assured of “three square meals a day,” a roof over your head and “access to free health care” if you break the law. How is it that prisoners receive more benefits at taxpayer expense than law-abiding citizens?
In a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, California was order to reduce its prison population because of overcrowding. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority: “A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society.”
In the U.S., there are 33 million adults and 17 million children who suffer from hunger. Homelessness affects 656,000 people on any given day. There are 60 million people who lack health insurance resulting in approximately 60,000 preventable deaths per year.
As a prisoner, the Supreme Court protects James Verone’s right to basic sustenance. School children and other citizens have no guaranteed protections for food, shelter and medical care.
To paraphrase Justice Kennedy, a country that deprives citizens of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society.
It is time for the United States to become civilized.
Joseph Sparks is master's candidate in journalism at MU. He is planning a career in public relations.