Reacting to news that murders in the nation’s capital jumped by 54 percent last year, the Washington, D.C., city council voted unanimously last week to pass a bill that would use taxpayers’ dollars to pay criminals not to commit more crimes.
That’s right: Instead of more police, prosecutors and prisons, the D.C. City Council wants to offer cash rewards out of the public coffers to D.C.’s criminal gunslingers.
Talk about “tough love.” “We offered those young men a partnership deal: We would pay them—yes, pay them—not to pull the trigger.” — Devone Boggan, founding director, Richmond, Calif., “Office of Neighborhood Safety”
As the comedy writer Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.
Under a measure supported by every member of the D.C. City Council last week, as many as 200 people per year would be selected for the giveaway program. They’d be directed to undergo behavioral therapy, “life planning” and other moist-eyed social engineering programs. Once they’d gone through the motions to complete the drill, so long as they didn’t get caught committing more crimes, they would qualify for the cash.
Presumably, the payments and programming would convince them to lay down their arms, light candles and join hands to sing “Kumbaya.”
The D.C. program is modeled on a similar program in Richmond, Calif., where participants get up to $9,000 each per year. The D.C. program is expected to hand out $460,000 in payoffs per year.
Sounds good! In fact, since Washington, D.C., is so flush with cash it wants to give away, I want to know: How do I get some of this action? I’ve been obeying most of the laws most of the time for most of my life, and I haven’t gotten a nickel out of it yet.
So: To get a piece of that $460,000-per-year public pie, what do I need to do to qualify?
According to the Washington Post, “Most participants would be those who have committed offenses involving firearms and who D.C. police think are likely to resort to gun violence again.”
So: Would illegally carrying a gun get me in the door? Or do you need to do an armed robbery to rise to the top of the pool of applicants?
Do drive-by shooters get preferential treatment? And how much “prior experience” do applicants need on their rap-sheet “resumes”?
In a New York Times op-ed last July headlined, “To Stop Crime, Hand Over Cash,” Devone Boggan, who cooked up the California program, wrote, “Once we’d identified the city’s potentially most lethal young men, we ... offered those young men a partnership deal: We would pay them—yes, pay them—not to pull the trigger.”
How much? Up to $1,000 a month for nine months. To get a piece of that $460,000 payout, what do I need to do to “qualify”? Would illegal gun possession be enough? Or would an armed robbery get me preferential treatment?
The D.C. program would allow participants to get handouts over multiple consecutive years. Which raises an obvious question: How many years can you get those handouts before you need to re-up your rap sheet with another gun crime? Is there a minimum body count?
Boggan calls it a “cash-for-peace strategy.” To us, it sounds a lot like ... protection money or ransom.
But who am I to question D.C.’s best and brightest?
According to Boggan, Richmond, Calif., police estimated that 70 percent of the shootings and murders in that city in 2009 were committed by just 17 individuals.
According to D.C.’s independent chief financial officer, together with the bill’s other provisions, the “bling for bangers” program in Washington would cost $25.6 million over four years.
Assuming an annual prison cost of $30,000 per inmate per year, and assuming that D.C. has a similar small number of armed, dangerous criminals as Richmond committing the lion’s share of the murders—let’s say 40 men—that $25.6 million could put them all behind bars for over 20 years each.
I don’t mean to rain on the gravy train, but wouldn’t that be a better way to stop the killing in Washington, than bribing armed criminals not to commit more crimes?
Right now, the biggest hurdle the D.C. program faces is where to get the cash to fund it.
For now, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser is still skeptical. As she points out, the District already spends $100 million per year on its job-training programs.
There’s also another question: What happens when the borrowed money runs out and the cookie jar runs dry?
I know what happened when my elderly aunt quit putting out day-old doughnuts for the black bears behind her home in the Pocono Mountains.
Her neighbor’s pet dachshund didn’t like it one bit.