In the true spirit of Halloween and turbocharged capitalism, rural Circuit Court Judge Marvin Wiggins has devised a unique form of punishment for minor offenders. If you can't pay the fine, you don't necessarily have to do the time in debtors' prison. All you have to do is open up a vein and relinquish a pint of one of the last personal resources that you still have left.
The New York Times has all the grisly details:
Forcing someone to undergo an invasive medical procedure in order to extract revenue for the state is unethical, if not downright illegal, posing as it does a public health danger from an unvetted blood donor population. According to the Times, dozens of "offenders" found guilty of everything from running a stop sign, to poaching, to drug use, dutifully lined up at a blood drive van in the courthouse parking lot. They were issued receipts, and were promised $100 off their fines, or old debts.“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,” began Judge Wiggins, a circuit judge here in rural Alabama since 1999. “For your consideration, there’s a blood drive outside,” he continued, according to a recording of the hearing. “If you don’t have any money, go out there and give blood and bring in a receipt indicating you gave blood.”For those who had no money or did not want to give blood, the judge concluded: “The sheriff has enough handcuffs.”
Who knows? Some of them perhaps were already employed in the gig economy as "plassers," entrepreneurs who supplement their meager incomes through regular hook-ups at their local blood banks. Even then, the plutocracy must take its cut, as donors are paid their $50-a-pop not by cash or check, but via plastic debit cards. So every time the plasser buys something in Walmart, a bank deducts a fee. That telltale pale bruised look that you see on struggling people is often a result of chronic anemia as well as malnourishment and the fatigue of working two or three minimum wage jobs.
Blood donations as a way of paying fines and bills were more common during wartime, but were largely abandoned by the justice system as outbreaks of hepatitis and H.I.V. scared government officials right out of their sadistic, bloodsucking greed.
Ironically enough, the for-profit mobile blood bank operating from the Alabama courthouse parking lot was run by LifeSouth, which had recently lost a $4 million lawsuit over an H.I.V.-tainted blood transfusion. The thirst for money is like a vampire. It dies hard, if it ever dies at all.
When LifeSouth couldn't contact all of Judge Wiggins' involuntary donors to ask some of the required medical questions ex post facto, the biological collection agency ended up discarding all the blood it had drawn. The Times article doesn't specify whether it disposed of the blood properly, or whether it simply dumped it into the nearest drinking water supply.
And to add insult to injury, a spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center says Wiggins the Impaler even reneged on his promise to reduce the defendants' fines by $100. His victims may yet have to serve jail time for the crime of hunting for their own food after dark, and other offenses against the oligarchy.
Meanwhile, blood is a very big business. Along with charter schools and EBT food stamp cards, it is just one of the myriad ways for the rich to profit from the poor. Even so, the onerous chore of sucking the lifeblood out of people makes the corporate vampires kvetch. So much of it ends up spoiling due to those dreaded market inefficiencies.
Ben Bowman, the CEO of a private blood mill originally called "General Blood" told Forbes magazine that more than a million pints of the valuable red stuff get tossed every single year. His business plan is to undercut the Red Cross by operating a one-stop blood sales and distribution hub smack dab in the US Heartland.
Bowman, 33, can offer pints at an average price of $229. He’s contracted with donation centers along the Interstate 35 corridor—from Laredo, Tex. to Duluth, Minn.—to ship blood by FedEx to hospitals that have agreements with General Blood. Bowman and 30-year-old cofounder David Mitchell guarantee delivery of the mix of types (O+, AB and B–) that hospitals prefer for local populations; blood types vary somewhat by ethnicity.Bowman teamed up with a former investment banker from Wells Fargo (which also made a pile of dough off the poor via its subprime mortgages and foreclosures) to devise his business plan, which is predicated on an excess of the blood supply resulting from the financial collapse which Wells Fargo helped to cause in the first place. Fewer people can afford to have elective surgeries, even necessary surgeries, because of no jobs, no insurance, or junk insurance with sky-high co-pays and deductibles. Forbes reporter Erin Carlyle ghoulishly notes:
Critics say this gave General Blood an opening: soaking up the excess and distributing pints where they were needed. But when the economy eventually turns and more people have those operations, there will be less need for a middleman.
“We’re projecting that as the boomers get into their 70s, you’re going to see a lot more hip replacements, knee replacements,” says Jim MacPherson, CEO of America’s Blood Centers, a network and trade organization. “We project, over the next five to six years, that blood demand will start increasing again and could increase rather dramatically. At that point there’s no more surplus, [and] General Blood probably goes away.”But the upstart Lestats were not discouraged and soon expanded operations into an Internet blood exchange. It operates like E-bay: hospitals and blood entrepreneurs can compete and bid on batches of Type O-Positive. Goldman Sachs can even get into the act, drawing on its social impact betting formula to place odds on how long a given vat of Type B will stay fresh before it is lost, stolen, sold, transfused or otherwise imbibed.
And don't tell me about those medieval leechers, either, because General Blood was a recent, and proud, semifinalist in the Minnesota Cup contest for venture capitalists.
But after a few years in the biz, the CEOs realized that "General Blood" sounded a bit boring and macabre, so they renamed it Hema Vista. (translation: spectacle of blood). And to go with its brand new marketing image of a bright-red sunset, it is now also based in The Cloud!
Let's face it, folks. Judge Wiggins of Alabama is just a very small vampire in a very big castle.