Fewer drug uses; more reckless endangerers

In prison, that is.  Listened to this amazing NPR story earlier this week about the dangers in “walking down the grain” in which workers literally drown to death in corn:

Early the next morning, on a stifling hot day in July 2010, Whitebread joined his buddies Alex Pacas, 19, and Will Piper, 20, at the Haasbach LLC grain storage complex. Piper had begun working there the week before, and it was Pacas’ second day on the job.

The boys carried shovels and picks as they climbed a ladder four stories to the top of the grain bin, which was twice as wide and half-filled with 250,000 bushels of wet and crusty corn. Their job was to “walk down the grain,” or break up the kernels that clung to the walls and clogged the drainage hole at the bottom of the bin.

The work went well at first, with the boys shoveling corn toward a cone-shaped hole at the center of the bin. But around 9:45 a.m., Whitebread began sinking in the corn. He was sucked under in minutes and disappeared. Pacas and Piper also began to sink and desperately struggled to stay on the surface.

Six horrific hours later, only Piper was carried out alive.

It turns out that in case after case the employer is basically sending people out to their doom despite plenty of evidence they very well may be doing so.  Reckless disregard for human life at the very least.   Yet, as the story points out, very, very few of these reckless endangerers are ever prosecuted and when they are fined, the fines typically end up dramatically reduced.

It seems to me in story after story of corporate/business malfeasance managers/owners, etc., make decisions which lead directly to either death or completely ruining people’s lives.   And yet they are almost never punished for it.  Meanwhile, if you are caught with a few pills of Ocycontin that don’t belong to you, you could get years in prison.  Quite simply, as a society we go way to easy on corporate crime.  That should change (not that I think it would will).  That said, it would sure make me happy to see more people like the man who sends a 14 year old into an incredibly dangerous corn bin (or mortgage brokers who defraud people out of their life savings, etc.) in prison and fewer drug addicts.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Fewer drug uses; more reckless endangerers

  1. Mike from Canada says:

    Not to mention how easy it would be to safe guard against this particular death. A rope and a harness. Fifty, perhaps at most a hundred dollars of equipment and a few minutes of training could have easily prevented that death. At the very least one would think they would be given training on what to do should they find themselves in that situation.

    Yes, corporations are considered “people” except when it comes to being responsible for the actions they take. Its moral hazard run a muck. If there is no punishment for corporate wrong doing there is no incentive for corporations to stop doing wrong. No incentive for corporations to ensure the people they employ, from the top down, are concerned for “external costs”, which is what destroyed economies, dumped toxins and dead employees are.

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