HAVE WE GONE MAD? Cities Paying $1000 for Criminals ‘Not to Kill’

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 5.48.49 PMWe have officially gone nuts. Our GOVERNMENT would rather pay criminals ‘not to kill’ than keep their law abiding citizens well armed. Unbelievable. Check out the details.

It is widely known that in the past 6 months there has been a loud debate about helicopter money, i.e., giving out ordinary people (bypassing the banks) money directly printed by the Fed. What is less known is that when it comes to the most despicable underbelly of American society, cash to the tune of $1000 per month is already being “helicoptered” to some of the most brazen criminals living in the US today with one simple condition: “don’t kill people.”

Take the case of Lonnie Holmes, 21, who lives in Richmond, a working-class suburb north of San Francisco and whose four his cousins had died in shootings. He was a passenger in a car involved in a drive-by shooting, police said. And he was arrested for carrying a loaded gun. When Holmes was released from prison last year, officials in this city offered something unusual to try to keep him alive: money. They began paying Holmes as much as $1,000 a month not to commit another gun crime.

This is not just appeasement: it’s sheer idiocy pure and simple, and it’s only just starting.

According to the WaPo, “cities across the country, beginning with the District of Columbia, are moving to copy Richmond’s controversial approach because early indications show it has helped reduce homicide rates.”

If readers are shocked by this “modest payment” it is for a good reason: the program requires governments to reject some basic tenets of law enforcement even as it challenges notions of appropriate ways to spend tax dollars.

In Richmond, the city has hired ex-convicts to mentor dozens of its most violent offenders and allows them to take unconventional steps if it means preventing the next homicide. For example, the mentors have coaxed inebriated teenagers threatening violence into city cars, not for a ride to jail but home to sleep it off — sometimes with loaded firearms still in their waistbands. The mentors have funded trips to South Africa, London and Mexico City for rival gang members in the hope that shared experiences and time away from the city streets would ease tensions and forge new connections.

And when the elaborate efforts at engagement fail, the mentors still pay those who pledge to improve, even when, like Holmes, they are caught with a gun, or worse — suspected of murder.

The city-paid mentors operate at a distance from police. To maintain the trust of the young men they’re guiding, mentors do not inform police of what they know about crimes committed. At least twice, that may have allowed suspected killers in the stipend program to evade responsibility for homicides.

And yet, interest in the program is surging among urban politicians. Officials in Miami, Toledo, Baltimore and more than a dozen cities in between are studying how to replicate Richmond’s program.

The District of Columbia is first in line.

The arrival of “Pay not to Spray” (as we have dubbed it) was not without controversy: implementing the Richmond model has emerged as a central fight this year between D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and the D.C. Council.

Bowser (D) is opposed to the strategy, arguing that the city should instead use its resources to fund jobs programs and that there is little independent analysis of the Richmond program. The mayor did not include money for it in her proposed 2017 budget released Thursday, and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said she is skeptical of the need for the Richmond-style program and has not seen sufficient data to verify its results.

She and Kevin Donahue, Bow­ser’s deputy mayor for public safety, question the veracity of Richmond’s claims of having saved so many of the city’s most violent offenders, since mentors — and not police — pick the participants and there has not been a control group used to measure outcomes. “There’s never been a real evaluation of the program,” Lanier said. “They didn’t design the program to allow it to be evaluated,” Donahue added.

But this month, the D.C. Council unanimously approved the idea as the best response to a surge of violent deaths that rocked the city last year. D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) has promised to shift money from the mayor’s other law-enforcement priorities to launch the program. He said the successes in Richmond cannot be ignored by city leaders serious about reducing crime.

Actually it can, because what this program does is shift incentives for ordinary Americans to become extraordinary criminals with hopes of being rewarded by the government for curbing any future outbursts of violent behavior.

But when it comes to nuances such as these, the government rarely pay attention; instead it looks at an isolated case and extrapolates. In this case the case is that of Richmond. This is what happened there:

Five years into Richmond’s multimillion-dollar experiment, 84 of 88 young men who have participated in the program remain alive, and 4 in 5 have not been suspected of another gun crime or suffered a bullet wound, according to DeVone Boggan, founder of the Richmond effort.

In 2007, Richmond’s homicide tally had surged to 47, making it the country’s sixth-deadliest city per capita. In the 20 years prior to that, Richmond lost 740 people to gun violence, and more than 5,000 had been injured by a bullet. Elected leaders of the heavily African American city of about 100,000 began treating homicides as a public health emergency.

Boggan, who had lost a brother in a shooting in Michigan, came up with the core of the program after reading about a paid business school fellowship. He wondered whether troubled young men couldn’t be approached the same way and be paid to improve their lives. But he had to raise the money because he couldn’t persuade officials to give tax dollars directly to violent firearms offenders.

He hired men who had served time across San Francisco Bay at California’s San Quentin State Prison, often for their own gun crimes on the streets of Richmond.

Boggan and his streetwise crew of ex-cons selected an initial group of 21 gang members and suspected criminals for the program. One night in 2010, he persuaded them to come to city hall, where he invited them to work with mentors and plan a future without guns. As they left, Boggan surprised each one with $1,000 — no strings attached.

How does the case payment system work?

Those in the program begin by drafting a “life map” and setting goals — such as applying for a job, going back to school or communicating better with family. They meet with facilitators who, unbeknown to the young men, are psychologists or sociologists. Together, they talk through issues in what amounts to stealth therapy.

If they remain engaged for six months, meeting with mentors several times a week, they start to receive monthly payments between $1 and $1,000, depending on their level of participation. The maximum amount paid is $9,000 over the 18-month fellowship.

The program has handed out $70,000 a year, on average, since 2010, Boggan said.

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