WASHINGTON - Many residents are sounding off on a plan to pay criminals in the District of Columbia not to commit crimes. The D.C. Council approved a bill that includes a proposal to pay some residents a stipend for staying out of trouble.
In this plan, city officials would identify up to 200 people a year at risk of committing or being the victims of violent crime. Those people could be paid stipends if they participate in behavioral therapy and stay out of trouble.
It is unknown how much the stipends would be in D.C., but participants in a similar program in California received up to $9,000 a year.
We have received hundreds of Facebook comments from people who are outraged over this plan.
Delores Price Parks said:
“So, I have to become a criminal to collect $9,000.00. his is the dumbest thing I have ever heard.”
Guy Harrison commented:
“Here is a better solution: harsh laws, long prison sentences and banishment from the city for violent criminals.”
Kim Ennis wrote:
"I have a novel idea. How about paying them to work?!"
Corin Love had faith in the plan saying:
"This is not going to work."
DC city council is considering a bill to pay residents NOT to commit crimes. Weigh in: Good or bad idea?? @fox5dc— ShawnYancy (@Fox5Shawn) February 2, 2016
So what does Mayor Muriel Bowser think about the program?
“I know the council moved on a lot yesterday and I want a chance to review it,” said Bowser. “I understand it has a pretty significant price tag that will have to be accounted for.”
This program is not the first in the country. It is currently in place in Richmond, California. Those who are in the program there are getting paid not to commit crimes, but it also comes with other rules and mentoring – and the director of the program said it is working.
Devone Boggan runs the stipend program in Richmond. He said 79 percent of those in his program have not been suspected of gun violence since joining the program.
Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie is behind it the legislation and he told FOX 5 that the stipend is a small component of a much larger bill.
“A lot of the individuals who go through these programs are getting exposed to mentors, they are getting GEDs, they are getting high school diplomas,” said McDuffie. “So they are putting them on pathway to success and that's ultimately what we want to do here in the District of Columbia. We want to create opportunities for education, create opportunities for workforce development and job creation.
“It's important to say that it pales in comparison to the more than $30,000 that spend we pay to incarcerate somebody,” he added. “It pales in comparison to the billions we are spending nationwide on the criminal justice system.”
McDuffie acknowledged that this is unconventional, but they are trying to be proactive about crime.
Community activist Ron Moten has dedicated himself to helping turn around at-risk youth in some of D.C.’s roughest neighborhoods. He said paying criminals is not new in the District. He said it was done when he ran the D.C.-funded group Peaceaholics.
“We did something similar where we took the shooters who were causing a lot of violence in the community and we trained them to go back into their communities to be mediators,” he said. “We gave them a $150 stipend every two weeks because we knew if they weren't on the corner selling drugs, we had to replace that with something.”
D.C. Councilmember David Grosso (D-At-Large), who backs the stipend part of the crime bill, said this is an out-of-the-box effort to reduce D.C’s crime problem.
“It's a different approach, it's thinking outside the box, so it's going to take some time for people to understand where we are going, but in the long run, we are going to be much better off,” said Grosso.
Boggan said this program is not just about paying people who may commit crime, but it is about getting their lives back on track.
This program is still months in the making. A second and final vote will go before the full council in March. If passed, it will then go to the mayor.