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Friday Ephemera

Lunch Money Surrendered

The Council of the District of Columbia approved legislation Tuesday that would pay residents in the nation’s capital for not committing crimes.

No, really

First reported by the Associated Press, the bill penned by Democratic Council-member Kenyan McDuffie gained unanimous approval from the D.C. Council. The legislation, called the “Neighbourhood Engagement Achieves Results Amendment Act of 2016 (NEAR Act),” would establish an office to identify as many as 200 residents annually who are at risk of committing violent crimes or becoming a victim of such crimes. The individuals would be instructed to participate in life planning, trauma informed therapy, and other programmes; if they comply and do not commit crimes, the individuals would receive a stipend. The legislation was based on a Richmond, California, programme that pays individuals who participate as much as $9,000 annually.

Mr McDuffie describes his bill as “bold and innovative,” “a step in the right direction,” and “working to prevent crime by treating its root causes.”

Update, via the comments: 

The experiment in Richmond, on which the above is based, involved “sifting through police records to determine the 50 [or so] residents most likely to shoot someone.” And then “approaching them and [offering] a stipend [of up to $1000 a month] to turn their lives around, and a mentor to help.” After four years of being subsidised for not being caught committing any further violent crimes, 65 of the 68 “fellows” enrolled in the programme were “still alive,” although “one had survived a shooting and three had died.” This was deemed “promising.”

The city’s murder rate did in fact fall while the programme was running, though other, more obvious factors – from a new police chief’s dramatic overhaul of policing methods to the local housing crisis and the consequent relocation of many known criminals - may have been more relevant. Comparable experiments in other cities haven’t exactly been conclusive either, with many supporters losing their initial interest and withdrawing funding, both private and public. A scheme in Pittsburgh initially coincided with an increase in the murder rate; one in Chicago has been “overshadowed by escalating homicide numbers,” and a similar project in Boston is described as “ending disastrously.”