A San Francisco suburb is testing out a controversial strategy to combat gun violence by paying people not to commit crimes.
The experiment, called “Advance Peace,” is being conducted in Richmond, California and its being run this way: The 18 month fellowship hires convicted felons to ‘court’ troubled youth who have so far avoided arrest due to lack of evidence with offers of cash and vacations if they amend their ways.
If after 6 months, a person in the voluntary program begins to achieve specific goals, they can earn up to $1000 a month. Though it sounds like a good idea, this experiment doesn’t sit right with everybody. For example, Lorrain Taylor , a victims’ right activist whose twin sons were gunned down in the nearby city of Oakland when they were just 22. “If I were to find out that the guy who murdered my sons was getting a thousand dollars for a promise? … I mean, how can you trust? … I mean if they can kill somebody, they will lie” Taylor said, breaking down in tears.
However, supporters say the money which comes from private donations is just like the allowance most American parents give their children as a reward for hardwork and they argue that daily, intensive engagement is the only way to stop urban gun violence. Some of the vacation spots for the ‘fellows’ who stay out of trouble include Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C and even London.
“Our point is to connect with that young man in a very human way, to change that mindset that gives rise to destructive behavior” said program director DeVone Boggan with the Richmond Office of Neighborhood Services.
“Services don’t stop bullets, but relationships can, and relationships do,” Boggan said most of the 82 men who’ve gone through the program are still alive and are not considered suspects in any recent gun crimes.
But critics say the Advance Peace program sends a bad message, and that if any one should be getting paid or going on trips, it should be the victims of violence.