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San Francisco pilot program to pay at-risk people hundreds per month to refrain from gun violence

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The hubbub around San Francisco's upcoming Dream Keeper Fellowship program is that it pays criminals to not commit crimes — specifically gun violence, the San Francisco Examiner reported.

But officials with knowledge of the pilot program, set to launch in October, bristle at the claim.

"The notion of paying criminals not to shoot might be a sexy headline, but it's an extraordinarily inaccurate description of the intervention," David Muhammad, executive director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, told KGO-TV.

What are the details?

The Examiner said a handful of city dwellers at-risk for gun violence will be offered a chance to participate in the program, which pays $300 in guaranteed monthly income. Then, the paper said, participants can earn up to $200 more a month by meeting milestones such as landing job interviews, complying with probation, or consistently meeting with mentors.

Indeed, participants also would be paired with "life coaches from the Street Violence Intervention Program, known as SVIP, who will help the them make the right choices and access services," the Examiner added.

In addition, participants will be considered "community ambassadors" who work to prevent violence and "partners" in engaging community members and decreasing violence, Newsweek reported.

"It's not as transactional as, 'Here's a few dollars so that you don't do something bad,' but it really is about how you help us improve public safety in the neighborhood," Sheryl Davis, executive director of the Human Rights Commission, added to the magazine.

"What we are actually doing is trying to address the root causes of some of what's happened," Davis also told the Examiner. "Six thousand dollars per person, when you look at it annually, is nothing if it helps deter criminal activity compared to the amount of money it costs to incarcerate someone, let alone the impact of the activity itself."

The stipends — which will be placed on tracked, reloadable gift cards — don't come with spending restrictions, but Muhammad told the paper he's not concerned about what participants will purchase with them.

"There have been studies of guaranteed-income programs in Stockton, and other places, that really track how they were spending the money and showed that ... folks spent it on transportation and food and bills," he added to the Examiner.

More from the Examiner:

The program is modeled, in part, after the nationally watched Operation Peacemaker Fellowship in Richmond, which offers similar stipends of up to $1,000. A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Public Health linked the program to a 55% decrease in gun homicides and 43% decline in shootings since it began in 2010.

Muhammad told KGO that Operation Peacemaker Fellowship, a program of the Richmond Office of Neighborhood Safety, was a big success.

Oops

However, the station said it wasn't without controversy, as one participant was arrested and later sentenced to 40 years to life for shooting and killing JaVont-e Prothro. The victim's mother, Yolanda Ficklin-Prothro, told KGO in 2016: "You didn't take their guns. You were giving them money to buy more guns."

Indeed, Davis added to the station that "there's definitely something that we want to learn from that program that we want to benefit from, and there are things that we don't want to repeat."

Muhammad looks at the program this way, telling KGO: "What we are talking about is saying we are going to invest resources in this 25-year-old who has eight previous arrests, who is on parole, who is a proud member of a neighborhood clique and who is not even seeking services. It's just not a popular decision to make and may not be politically palatable, but that's what you have to do in order to reduce gun violence."

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