A Word In Edgewise: Are There No Prisons? Are There No Workhouses?


A recent article by Scott Rodd for ThinkProgram profiled impoverished Campti, Louisiana, a town by no means unique in our country. The residents quoted were articulate and aware of their situation.

Leon moved away to work, then returned a decade ago, planning to sign up for Social Security: “…right when I signed up they raised the age to 66, and now they’re talking about raising it again to 70. But hardly no one makes it to that age around here.”

Clara stated, “The thing that I think this town needs most is jobs. People here want to work, but there are no jobs for them to find.” Those with jobs must travel 20 to 40 minutes to neighboring towns, but Campti has no public transportation.

“Many people,” Rodd writes, “are only a dead battery or transmission failure away from losing their jobs.”

Donna Isaacs, a native of Jamaica, is the executive director of the nonprofit organization Campti Field of Dreams, which runs the Campti Historic Museum. When volunteering to drive residents the fifteen miles to a new clinic for free cancer screening, Isaacs was “strongly discouraged, since she wasn’t insured to transport residents.”

For students, the lack of affordable Internet access means they can’t continue their digital class work at home. Teachers must adapt curricula to accommodate these limitations, putting students at a disadvantage when applying to college or for jobs.

Eudora drives an hour to Shreveport for medication. “The place … doesn’t accept my Medicare, so I have to pay out of pocket. Every two weeks I have to drive up there and it’s $150 a pop, plus the cost of gas. I have an appointment on Monday, but I know I won’t go. Just don’t have the money this week.”

In 1942, British economist William Beveridge called squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease “The Five Giant Evils,” evoking Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, where in 1843 the Ghost of Christmas Present showed Ebenezer Scrooge starving urchins named “Ignorance” and “Want.”

Today, as one set of politicians works to deny aid to our neediest, will yet others resist and provide them the basic resources most Americans take for granted? It is not only those deprived that will suffer if the answer is “No.”

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