The City of San Francisco announced this week a plan to launch a program that uses cash incentives and mentorship relationships to encourage violent criminals not to commit crimes.
Several other American cities have adopted similar programs, and the results have been mixed. Some cities have seen a marked decline in violent crime while others have experienced little change.
In San Francisco, the program has been dubbed the “San Francisco’s Dream Keeper Fellowship,” and the pilot program will target 10 people who program directors believe are at risk of committing violent crime, according to NBC Bay Area.
Critics of these and similar programs balk at using taxpayer dollars to bribe violent felons, but proponents say the money is part of a much larger system designed to stop violence before it starts.
“Paying criminals to not shoot is an enticing headline, but it is a significantly inaccurate description of the program,” David Muhammad told NBC. “The primary intervention is a positive and trusting relationship with what we call an intensive life coach.”
Muhammad is the Executive Director of the National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform, an advocacy organization that seeks to “reduce incarceration and violence.”
Those involved in San Francisco’s program will receive $300 per month for being involved, Muhammad says. They’ll also be eligible to receive an additional $200 per month for achieving certain outcomes.
The Second Amendment community’s response to these programs has varied. The National Rifle Association published an article in 2018 expressing support for programs that intervene in the lives of criminals because they target gun violence without attacking gun owners. The Dream Keeper Fellowship and similar initiatives might waste taxpayer money, but unlike other policies aimed at curbing “gun violence,” they don’t try to restrict lawful gun ownership.
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Others argue that despite the short-term success of these programs, they promote the wrong incentive structure and will ultimately fail. Joel Shults, a retired police chief in Colorado, made this argument in a recent dialogue posted on Police1.
“What gets backward in the money-for-not-murdering plan is that the cash reward can only be earned if you are already an offender or associated with a criminal gang,” he said. “Many businesses around the world have been paying people not to smash their windows or burn their buildings or break their kneecaps. Seems to be effective in the short term, while buying trouble in the long term.”
Strangely, gun-control groups are often the biggest proponents of “community violence intervention” programs even though these programs, if successful, would undercut their gun control agenda. Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords have published violence intervention pages on their websites, and President Joe Biden included $5 billion for these programs in the American Jobs Plan.
Only time will tell if this latest attempt has success in The City by the Bay.