The program will be called the Dream Keeper Fellowship, though likely to be dubbed “Cash for Criminals” in the media, and will pay select people $300 a month to avoid gun incidents.
San Francisco’s 56-year-low homicide rate of 2019 was not a sustained phenomenon, as gun violence spiked pretty much everywhere once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. San Francisco saw just 14 gun homicides in 2019, then 15 in 2020, but by the end of July 2021, already 21 in a year that has five more months to go.
And in October, the city will begin a highly unconventional (though not unprecedented) solution. The Examiner reports on a pilot program to begin then that will essentially offer high-risk individuals $300 a month to not shoot anyone, or be shot themselves.
It’s called the Dream Keeper Fellowship, and is borne from SFPD data showing that more than half of all San Francisco gun killings involve the same 12 criminal groups and gangs. The idea is to target those at high risk of being on either end of a shooting with a $300 monthly payment. Subjects could then receive up to $200 extra for other certain milestones like getting a job interview, complying with probation conditions, or participating in a mentoring program, in what’s sure to be a highly controversial intervention.
“What we are talking about is saying we are going to invest resources in this 25-year-old who has eight previous arrests, who is on parole, who is a proud member of a neighborhood clique and who is not even seeking services,” National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform executive director David Muhammad told the Examiner. “It’s just not a popular decision to make and may not be politically palatable, but that’s what you have to do in order to reduce gun violence.”
The fellowship is slated to launch as a small pilot program in October. There will be only 10 participants at first, which would ramp up to 30 by the end of the year, and if successful, would eventually ramp up to as many as 200-300 participants. SFPD would decide whom to offer enrollment to based on ongoing analysis of crime statistics data.
The idea has been tried before, notably in the California communities of Richmond and Stockton, and has gotten the desired results. A 2019 study in the American Journal of Public Health created the idea with “55% fewer deaths and hospital visits, 43% fewer [gun] crimes.,” though ironically, “unexpected increases in nonfirearm violence” in smaller percentages. But the idea has already been dubbed “Cash for Criminals” by conservative media, and even the Daily Show did a rather mocking segment on it in 2018 seen above.
Jokes aside, that segment also showed the program’s value. “The money is just the bait, they just throw that out there to reel you in,“ said Daily Show interview subject and veteran of the Richmond program LaVon Carter Jr. “You’ve got to complete the goals that sethey set up. When you get in, they start to teach you real values that nobody in your life taught you before. “
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