Too bad I can’t find the two books of cartoons by John Calahan that I had. I think one was stolen, which is perfectly understandable. John Calahan is a brilliant disabled cartoonist. I think he draws with his mouth, but he’s definitely no Joni (no doubt this would be a joke to him)! He has a wonderfully wicked, black sense of humor. One of his more well-known cartoons shows a desert scene with a man in a manual wheelchair and a sheriff and his deputy on horseback. The sheriff says to his deputy, "Don’t worry. He won’t get far."
Apparently, California officials didn’t get the joke. According to the Los Angeles Times last week, a law, adapted a couple years ago, saying that terminally ill prisoners are to be released isn’t being enforced. Instead, as described in the Times, inmates who are in the hospital and barely able to move or walk, if they can at all, are shackled to their beds. Not only that, but each is watched over 24/7 by at least two guards.
These guards, who are paid quite handsomely with taxpayers’ money, consider this to be a "plum assignment." One guard was quoted as saying that, unlike in the prisons, these hospitalized inmates can’t do much to talk or fight back.
Not only is this inane, as John Calahan would no doubt gleefully point out, it is a scandal in a state that is awash in debt and slashing services, including those for the disabled. Indeed, the day after the first Times story appeared, it was reported that the state will consider releasing the ten most terminally ill patients. (Don’t ask me why it’s ten. I guess it’s a nice, easy, people-pleasing round number.)
There are hard-line conservatives who are raising objections to this releasing, who are saying "not so fast." They are asking questions like: What if these people get well? Who will now pay for their care? These are problems that aren’t problems or are easily resolved.
Mostly, though, these are silly, stupid questions hiding the real issue. These right-wingers, even as they insist that costs be cut, even as they loudly profess to follow a loving and forgiving Jesus, can’t stand the idea of a crime going unpunished, of an eye not given for an eye, a tooth not given for a tooth.
And no matter that the criminal can’t get far. They’re worried.