The concept of reward money has always irked me – not unlike the concept of reducing sentences for violent offenders just because they did something nice behind bars.
“We have to incentivize people to do the right thing,” one South Carolina lawmaker told me recently.
Well, no. Actually, we don’t. People should do the right thing because of its inherent rightness, not because there is something in it for them. Seriously: What does this say about the depths we are plumbing as a society?
We only do good because it benefits us?
For example, if you happen see a convicted killer/ gang leader walking down your street – someone who was illegally and unconstitutionally released from prison thanks to the pervasive, perverse corruption of your state’s “justice” system – you should immediately call law enforcement and tell them.
You shouldn’t check first to see if any reward money is available …
Sadly, we are in a space in our culture where doing the right thing has become far too transactional. Where virtue is no longer its own reward, but something we negotiate. Where we feel entitled to specific renumeration because we did something we should have just done.
Save a life? Lend a hand? Report a crime?
Nah … pay me. Or worse … praise me.
This week, officials with the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC), the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) announced they were offering a $30,000 reward for information leading to “the capture and return to prison” of convicted killer and gang leader Jeroid J. Price.
Apparently the initial reward of $5,000 failed to attract any takers.
To recap: Price was convicted in 2003 of murdering University of North Carolina football player Carl Smalls after a gang-related dispute at Club Voodoo in Columbia, S.C. He was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison – and was supposed to serve every single day of that term per the Palmetto State’s mandatory minimums sentencing law, § 16-3-20 (A).
Nonetheless, Price was illegally and unconstitutionally released from SCDC custody on March 15, 2023 by retiring judge Casey Manning. Manning’s illegitimate order – granted at the request of powerful lawyer-legislator Todd Rutherford – was first exposed by this news outlet on April 17, 2023. In the intervening days, this story took the Palmetto State by storm – reviving calls for reform of South Carolina’s badly broken judicial system.
Price is a leader in the Bloods gang – having been described as the “Godfather of the G Shine Bloods” within the state correctional system. At the time of the Club Voodoo shooting, Price was referred to as a “superior” in the criminal organization – leading a chapter referred to as the “GKB,” or “Gangster Killer Bloods.”
Price’s son – 23-year-old Jewayne M. Price – is also a gang leader. He was charged last year in connection with a gang-related shooting at Columbiana Mall in northwest Columbia, S.C. that left nine people wounded. He is currently incarcerated at the Alvin S. Glenn detention center in Richland County, S.C.
Last month, the S.C. supreme court voided Manning’s order by a narrower-than-expected 3-2 margin – revoking Price’s freedom. Prior to issuing the order, though, they missed out on their opportunity to apprehend him. Days before this hearing, S.C. chief justice Donald Beatty was expressly warned Price was a flight risk and a danger to the community – yet he declined to have him taken into custody even though law enforcement knew his whereabouts at the time.
Now? Price is in the wind.
(Click to view)
Price is free thanks to unsubstantiated reports that he assisted correctional officials in apprehending an escaped convict in 2017 – as well as uncorroborated reports that he saved the life of an SCDC guard in 2010. Of course, Price was also alleged to have called in threats against not one but two SCDC wardens during his period of incarceration.
Let’s assume for the moment Price did help catch an escaped convict – and did save the life of a prison guard. There is no evidence either of those things actually happened, but for the sake of argument let’s pretend they did. And further suspending disbelief, let’s assume Price was a model inmate throughout the entirety of his prison sentence. There’s ample evidence that’s not true, but again … let’s pretend.
Either way … so what?
Does that mean Manning should have secretly freed him absent a properly filed motion from a solicitor? In direct contravention of state law? And in direct violation of the victims’ bill of rights section of the S.C. Constitution (Article I, Section 24), which holds that victims have the right to be aware of and “present at any post-conviction hearing involving a post-conviction release decision?”
Hell to the no …
Some folks are bent out of shape about Price’s reward money, which is being subsidized with cash seized by law enforcement officers (a.k.a. civil asset forfeiture funds). That isn’t tax money, but it is technically still a public expenditure.
Frankly, I am less worried over the source of these funds and more concerned we are living in a culture where people have to be bribed to do the right thing. In or out of prison. Doing the right thing should never get you more than a pat on the back and a word of encouragement. And if you are expecting more than that, there’s something wrong with your worldview.
I get the argument that we want to encourage prisoners to assist law enforcement in solving crimes – and encourage the public to do the same. But such “encouragement” should never trample over our laws or constitution – nor should it create a greater, graver danger to the public than the danger purportedly addressed by the original assistance.
More fundamentally, we should be very careful of the broader social construct we are establishing in compensating people for – creating a system in which good acts become a currency that, absent payment, vanish from our culture altogether.
THE REWARD ...
(Via: SCDC, SLED, RCSD)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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