Cash for Criminals

by  Mike Kimel

Here’s a CNN story on “Cash for Criminals”:

And so Operation Peacemaker was born. Loosely based on an academic fellowship, the ONS program invites some of the most hardened youth into the fold: often teenage boys suspected of violent crimes but whom authorities don’t have enough evidence to charge criminally.

These fellows must pledge to put their guns away for a more peaceful life. They are hooked up with mentors — the reformed criminals-turned-city workers — who offer advice, guidance and support to get jobs. If the fellows show good behavior after six months, they can earn a stipend of up to $1,000 a month.
Since the fellowship started, the city has seen dramatic results, including a low of 11 gun homicides in 2014 — the fewest number of people killed in Richmond in four decades.

The program has caught the attention of cities hoping to model programs with similar success, from Sacramento, California, to Toledo, Ohio, to Washington.

Later in the article:

Boggan believes the vast majority of youth in rough inner-city neighborhoods are inherently good and need to be exposed to new opportunities. With ex-felons as his change agents, he says, the teens are more likely to respond.

“That translates into trust on the street,” Boggan says. “And trust is a major commodity with what we do.”

At one point, he employed seven full-time mentors, but cutbacks reduced his staff to four full-time and two part-time mentors.

2015 saw gun homicides nearly double to 21, from the low of 11 in 2014. Boggan says staffing cuts may have played a role. “Less people touched, and the people touched are not being touched as often,” he says. “That’s certainly an impact.”

If I was designing programs to convert as many Democrats as possible into Republicans, I imagine something like this would come in near the top of my list. About the only changes I would recommend would be to run this program more broadly, and to increase the size of the stipends.