Stealing from the Poor

Absolutely terrific article looking into how a group of people can be repeatedly systematically abused. Definitely worth your time to read the whole thing.

People like Gray who have suffered lead poisoning as children are especially vulnerable to predatory transactions. Many are impulsive and mentally disabled, but not so much that the law regards them as incapable of acting on their own behalf, as long as they’re 18 or older.
“A lot of them can barely read,” said Saul E. Kerpelman, who estimates he has defended more than 4,000 victims of lead poisoning, nearly all of them black. “They have limited capacity. But they fall through a crack. If they were severely disabled enough, you could file a court petition to have a trustee manage their property. But they’re not disabled enough.”
Every case spells out the deal’s worth. It lists the aggregate value of the lead victim’s payments, their present value and the agreed purchase price. A random survey of 52 of those deals shows Access Funding generally offers to pay around 33 cents on the present value of a dollar. Sometimes, it offers more. And sometimes, much less. One 24-year-old lead victim sold nearly $327,000 worth of payments, which had a present value of $179,000, for less than $16,200 — or about 9 cents on the dollar. Another relinquished $256,000 worth of payments, which had a present value of $166,000, for $35,000 — or about 21 cents on the dollar.
Taken together, the sample shows Access Funding petitioned to buy roughly $6.9 million worth of future payments — which had a present value of $5.3 million — for around $1.7 million.

While this specific scenario is horrifying, with people in poverty being subjected to lead causing mental disability leading to a company targeting their mental deficiencies for a profit. Lax regulations straight up caused these people to be mentally disabled, and the only support they can get is by suing their landlords. Once they’ve successfully jumped through that convoluted hoop, another agency just shows up to rake in the profits. The bigger picture here is our society simply does not understand or respect the impacts of mental disabilities.

1 in 5 American’s experience mental illness in a given year, and 10 million Americans suffer from severe mental disabilities which impede their ability to live in society and we have basically no programs in place to support these people. At their peak, state mental hospitals supported 558,992 patients. By 2015 that number was down to 35,000, a number which falls every year. Thus the severally mentally ill make up 26% of people in homeless shelters and 24% of our state prisoners. 90% of suicides are connected to an underlying mental illness. By cutting support for mental illness our society spends 193.2 billion per year repairing damages. Something needs to change.