Posts Tagged ‘Incentives’

Report from a Madhouse

When you throw your last scraps of civilized incentive-architecture in a dumpster and set it on fire it looks like this:

Cities across the country, beginning with the District of Columbia, are moving to copy Richmond’s controversial approach because early indications show it has helped reduce homicide rates. […] But the program requires governments to reject some basic tenets of law enforcement even as it challenges notions of appropriate ways to spend tax dollars. […] … when the elaborate efforts at engagement fail, the mentors still pay those who pledge to improve, even when, like [violent criminal Lonnie] Holmes, they are caught with a gun, or worse — suspected of murder. […] … To maintain the trust of the young men they’re guiding, mentors do not inform police of what they know about crimes committed. At least twice, that may have allowed suspected killers in the stipend program to evade responsibility for homicides. […] And yet, interest in the program is surging among urban politicians. Officials in Miami, Toledo, Baltimore and more than a dozen cities in between are studying how to replicate Richmond’s program. […] … five years into Richmond’s multimillion-dollar experiment, 84 of 88 young men who have participated in the program remain alive, and 4 in 5 have not been suspected of another gun crime or suffered a bullet wound … […] Richmond’s decision to pay people to stay out of trouble began a decade ago during a period of despair. […] In 2007, Richmond’s homicide tally had surged to 47, making it the country’s sixth-deadliest city per capita. In the 20 years prior to that, Richmond lost 740 people to gun violence, and more than 5,000 had been injured by a bullet. […] Elected leaders of the heavily African American city of about 100,000 began treating homicides as a public health emergency. … [DeVone Boggan] who had lost a brother in a shooting in Michigan … had to raise the money because he couldn’t persuade officials to give tax dollars directly to violent firearms offenders. […] Boggan and his streetwise crew of ex-cons selected an initial group of 21 gang members and suspected criminals for the program. One night in 2010, he persuaded them to come to city hall, where he invited them to work with mentors and plan a future without guns. As they left, Boggan surprised each one with $1,000 — no strings attached. […] “This is controversial, I get it,” Boggan said. “But what’s really happening is that they are getting rewarded for doing really hard work, and it’s definite hard work when you talk about stopping picking up a gun to solve your problems.” […] So far, the attention — and money — seems to be working for Holmes. Although the $1,500 he has received since getting out of prison last fall has not led to a miraculous transformation, it enabled him to make a down payment on his black 2015 Nissan Versa — something meaningful for a young man who for many years was homeless. […] He now spends hours each day in the car, driving around with friends, often smoking pot but not “hunting” — Vaughn’s term for seeking conflict with rivals. […] “The money is a big part,” Holmes says. “I can’t count the number of times it has kept me from . . . doing what I’ve got to do. It stopped me from going to hit that liquor [store] or this, you feel me, it’s a relief to not have to go do this and endanger my life for a little income, you feel me?” …

That’s as much as I can take. The phrase subject to XS emphasis describes the core principle of the scheme. Maybe it should count as a relief that these gangstas aren’t being directly rewarded for whacking shop-keepers.

There’s a term for this kind of scheme: Dane Geld. It’s not something civilizations with a future tend to engage in.

ADDED: Highly relevant. “… there are entire classes of people who can get more from the world by being unstable and dangerous …”

March 29, 2016admin 19 Comments »
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