The short stories in Thomas Hardy Was An Optimist look at the lives of several troubled people from the lat 1980’s through the early 2000’s. During this time, more happened than the HIV epidemic. The United States also declared its “war on drugs,” and with it, the mass incarceration rate for which the country is now known. It also saw the rise of a drug rehab industry that included some horrific ones. Some subjected court-sentenced participants to unpaid labor with little to no treatment, calling it “work therapy.” This unpaid labar model turned out to be wide spread, and some got around of these laws by denying that their workers were employees. At least institution redefined them as “beneficiaries,” and even got a legal exemption for their treatment. What makes this situation so ironic is that at least one of these institutions has actively participated in the movement against modern slavery while engaging in unpaid labor in the US and the UK.
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