Great moments in self-government: DC to pay felons not to commit crimes?

posted at 6:41 pm on February 4, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

The most amazing part of this Associated Press story is that this idea didn’t originate in Washington DC. It starts in Richmond, California, which decided to start paying ex-cons to not commit crimes, coughing up $9,000 in annual stipends to program “fellows” who refrain from being Goodfellas. The Washington DC city council liked the idea so much that they want to start paying ex-cons, too:

The D.C. Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a bill that includes a proposal to pay residents a stipend not to commit crimes. It’s based on a program in Richmond, California, that advocates say has contributed to deep reductions in crime there.

Under the bill, city officials would identify up to 200 people a year who are considered at risk of either committing or becoming victims of violent crime. Those people would be directed to participate in behavioral therapy and other programs. If they fulfill those obligations and stay out of trouble, they would be paid.

The bill doesn’t specify the value of the stipends, but participants in the California program receive up to $9,000 per year.

Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, a Democrat who wrote the legislation, said it was part of a comprehensive approach to reducing violent crime in the city, which experienced a 54 percent increase in homicides last year. Homicides and violent crime are still down significantly since the 2000s, and even more so since the early 1990s when the District was dubbed the nation’s “murder capital.”

McDuffie argued that spending $9,000 a year in stipends “pales in comparison” to the cost of someone being victimized, along with the costs of incarcerating the offender.

Huh. And here I thought the proper incentive of not committing more crimes was not going to prison again. Of course, the Washington DC city council has some experience with this, as it offered stipends to Marion Barry after his drug conviction … thanks to voters who put him back in office after he got out of prison. How well did that work out?

At our founding, Benjamin Franklin observed that “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” Instead of emphasizing virtue, I argue in my column for The Fiscal Times, these programs incentivize its opposite:

How much did it cost the citizens of Richmond to keep violent felons from attacking them? The “stipend” for each “fellow” in compliance can reach $9,000 a year. Bear in mind that this money comes from people who don’t commit crimes – the taxpayers of Richmond. Washington would open the program for up to 200 people a year and set aside $460,000 in annual stipend payments, or roughly $2,300 per person a year if all qualified for the cash prize for good citizenship … or at least for not getting caught.

Crime may not pay, but after-crime certainly will, and not just for the criminals. The city projects the overall cost of the program in its first four years at $4.9 million, even though the total amount of the stipends comes to only $1.84 million in the same period. Sixty-two percent of the funding will go to the bureaucracy necessary for paying ex-cons to obey the law.

The money would be well spent, some argued, because the cost of preventing more victimization pales in comparison to the damage these “fellows” would otherwise cause. Perhaps it might be cost effective in that narrow sense, but the taxpayers who fund a program that sounds curiously similar to a protection racket might wonder if they’re being victimized anyway. Nice community ya got there, folks. Shame if anything happened to it ….

The money is beside the point, however. As Franklin pointed out, liberty is suited for a virtuous people – those who voluntarily operate in good faith within the framework of self-governance. Virtue by its nature cannot be bought. Those who respond to the social contract only on the basis of wealth incentives will only abide by it to the extent that the cash balances out competing incentives.

Furthermore, the moral impact of such programs reward the threat of implied violence by paying cash to hold them temporarily in abeyance. Rather than incentivizing felons to demonstrate rehabilitation, we’re essentially paying them to be dangerous.

More than a century ago, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about “paying the Dane-geld.” It’s worth reading in these times as well.


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Comments

Taxpayer funded protection racket.

antipc on February 4, 2016 at 6:44 PM

Are my pre-ban guns eligible for this program?

antipc on February 4, 2016 at 6:46 PM

That’s the idea behind every armed robbery.

HugoDrax on February 4, 2016 at 6:47 PM

How much will they pay me to not move there and commit crimes?

JamesB on February 4, 2016 at 6:47 PM

This is like Sharia law for felons.

Oil Can on February 4, 2016 at 6:48 PM

Correction – DC paying criminals who don’t get caught and prosecuted. It will have zero effect on crime.

…except for this additional criminal theft by DC libtards.

Megyn Kellys Lipstick on February 4, 2016 at 6:48 PM

We have an Italian greyhound. She runs down the street whenever we are not careful opening the door, she will only come back when she knows we have a treat in our hand. Essentially we have trained her to run down the street when the door is opened.

Yeah, this doesn’t really work.

petunia on February 4, 2016 at 6:49 PM

Sorta like Ogabe giving his Irabian friends billions in nuclear development loot to not nuke us…

viking01 on February 4, 2016 at 6:49 PM

Also, we pay people not to work. cough, *welfare*

Oil Can on February 4, 2016 at 6:51 PM

Better yet, why not a generous federal pension for every ex-con? Less paperwork all around.

Drained Brain on February 4, 2016 at 6:51 PM

Self-promoting welfare, more of it.

Work harder.

Schadenfreude on February 4, 2016 at 6:53 PM

That’s not a living wage at all!

antipc on February 4, 2016 at 6:53 PM

Huh. And here I thought the proper incentive of not committing more crimes was not going to prison again.

That was before we were fundamentally transformed. Modern liberalism is a mental illness.

rbj on February 4, 2016 at 6:53 PM

This from ” smart” people with no understanding of the criminal mindset.

katy the mean old lady on February 4, 2016 at 6:55 PM

Great moments in self-government: DC to pay felons not to commit crimes?

…hasn’t Reverend Al Sharpton been receiving checks for decades now?

JugEarsButtHurt on February 4, 2016 at 6:58 PM

My guess is that McDuffie’s resume includes soccer team mom and her duty was to make sure that everyone got a trophy.

Trusser13 on February 4, 2016 at 6:59 PM

Brought to you and funded by:

The Magical Printing Press of Liberal Good Intentions and Bad Ideas

hillbillyjim on February 4, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Millions for tribute, not a penny for self defense!

Racistanyway on February 4, 2016 at 7:01 PM

Cankles is a felon in DC.

How much of this loot did she score?

viking01 on February 4, 2016 at 7:02 PM

What could possibly go wrong?

hillbillyjim on February 4, 2016 at 7:03 PM

Did Marion Barry run out of crack money or sumpn?

‘Cause otherwise this is just stoopid.

hillbillyjim on February 4, 2016 at 7:06 PM

How about the felons pay municipalities $5000 a year, in exchange for us not killing them?

Now, THAT’S a protection racket I can support.

orangemtl on February 4, 2016 at 7:10 PM

Huh. And here I thought the proper incentive of not committing more crimes was not going to prison again

Ed, no offense but they consider it a badge of honor. I managed a bar in NYC and had to listen to people brag about and compare the quality of Dannemora, Sing Sing, Greenhaven, etc. Finally flipped out and screamed IT WASN’T FUKCING YALE! SHUT UP!
It did put a damper on the conversation.

katy the mean old lady on February 4, 2016 at 7:11 PM

We have an Italian greyhound. She runs down the street whenever we are not careful opening the door, she will only come back when she knows we have a treat in our hand. Essentially we have trained her to run down the street when the door is opened.

Yeah, this doesn’t really work.

Move to an area with an overpopulation of coyotes. Hungry ones.
Let’s see how fast you run now, greyhound b***h.
Solved.

No need to thank me.

orangemtl on February 4, 2016 at 7:13 PM

If D.C. had robust conceal/carry there would be all sorts of incentives not to commit crimes, incentives that come in many exciting and popular calibers.

Bishop on February 4, 2016 at 7:13 PM

Now that Thomas Skakel got bought out of prison does he still qualify?

How about others of the Kennedy-mafia?

viking01 on February 4, 2016 at 7:16 PM

Reporters later tried to question McDuffie as he was entering his armored limo to head back to his gated community, but his armed guards blocked the reporter’s path.

Bishop on February 4, 2016 at 7:16 PM

…and as always, Bishop nails it.

You slackers need to pick up your game.

Megyn Kellys Lipstick on February 4, 2016 at 7:29 PM

What’s the going rate/”market” price, for criminals to not commit crimes? … What if the criminals decide to “bump” their prices?

listens2glenn on February 4, 2016 at 7:37 PM

A liberal friend of mine once admitted this is why he supports welfare. To keep the “African-Americans” from robbing him.

It’s not racist because he said “African-Americans.”

Left-wing paternalistic racism. I believe somebody once called it the soft bigotry of low expectations.

hamiltmc on February 4, 2016 at 7:40 PM

Obama’s federal army to receive their first pay check.

trs on February 4, 2016 at 7:44 PM

How much will they pay me to not move there and commit crimes?
.
JamesB on February 4, 2016 at 6:47 PM

How about the felons pay municipalities $5000 a year, in exchange for us not killing them?

Now, THAT’S a protection racket I can support.
.
orangemtl on February 4, 2016 at 7:10 PM

If D.C. had robust conceal/carry there would be all sorts of incentives not to commit crimes, incentives that come in many exciting and popular calibers.
.
Bishop on February 4, 2016 at 7:13 PM

.
All GREAT … : )

listens2glenn on February 4, 2016 at 7:46 PM

I still say there is some logic behind the idea that DC should have been put under martial law from the get-go, just to give a good contrast and remind everyone what a lack of liberty looks like.

Count to 10 on February 4, 2016 at 7:49 PM

Did Marion Barry run out of crack money or sumpn?

‘Cause otherwise this is just stoopid.

hillbillyjim on February 4, 2016 at 7:06 PM

That would be difficult, considering he’s pushing up daisies.
Disgustingly, the funeral was a hug event in the DC area.

Count to 10 on February 4, 2016 at 7:52 PM

When done voluntarily – albeit after past behavior and threats in a community have risen to a high level – is this still extortion?

Mason on February 4, 2016 at 8:00 PM

hmmmm… I’m pretty sure there is a common characteristic linking the government weapons grade asshats and the beneficiaries of this taxpayer funded extortion racket…what could it be…what could be…?

HatfieldMcCoy on February 4, 2016 at 8:34 PM

Crime doesn’t pay.

James on February 4, 2016 at 9:24 PM

The middle class really appreciates how the Feds throw their money down the drain while ruining their quality of life

Mr Soames on February 4, 2016 at 9:44 PM

That would be difficult, considering he’s pushing up daisies.
Disgustingly, the funeral was a hug event in the DC area.

Don’t you actually mean YUUUUUUGE?

unsmiley on February 4, 2016 at 10:29 PM

So, what do the pols do when the former felons form a union and demand higher pay for being nice or else? This sounds like a protection racket the mafia would run. This plan goes right along with their plan to pay the kiddies for getting better grades.

Kissmygrits on February 5, 2016 at 9:29 AM

Does this new mayor even realize she’s promoting a protections racket that’s already illegal if done by those same felons she wants to pay. Idiots, nothing but idiots.

Kissmygrits on February 5, 2016 at 9:33 AM

Because paying some to commit crimes is the purview of government, not the private sector.

GrumpyOldFart on February 5, 2016 at 10:55 AM

Oooor, you could re-zone the whole thing, Non-Residential Commercial Governmental.

Bulldoze every residential structure and raise flowers and trees.

Oh, and no camping.

Venril on February 5, 2016 at 11:57 AM

Sixty-two percent of the funding will go to the bureaucracy necessary for paying ex-cons to obey the law.

So that’s $3.06 million to administer $1.84 million. I estimate a civil servant costs about $100,000 a year all in, including salary, pension, space, desk, ballpoints, paper and carfare. The $3.06 million was for four years, so $3.06 million/$400,000 = 7.65 bureaucrats. Now who’s making out like a bandit on this project?

wagnert in atlanta on February 5, 2016 at 12:48 PM