How much money does it take to get a violent criminal to change his ways? Well, thanks to a program in Richmond California called The Office of Neighborhood Security we know it only takes $1,000 a month, which as a happy coincidence is the amount that most basic income activists in the United States think a that basic income should be here in the United States.
What the program does is provide support, guidance, and free cash to criminals at high risk to commit violent crimes. When they start the program they write down life goals and if they make progress towards their goals they get cash. Eventually they get up to $1,000 per month.They also get travel opportunities. And lo and behold for a thousand dollars a month the vast majority of violent criminals are willing to stay on the straight and narrow. After seven years murders in Richmond are down by two thirds.
Here’s nice article from Al Jazeera with a little more information. Here’s a piece from Mother Jones that covers a slightly different angle on the program looking into whether it is actually the money or better policing bringing down the crime rate.
This program provides some nice empirical evidence to support the use of a basic income a crime reduction tool, although frankly it would be absurd to think that poverty and income inequality are not playing the driving role in violent crime. I think what is most interesting about this particular study is that it only took $1,000 a month to provide enough of an incentive and enough of a motivation to turn their life around. And the people in the program only got that much money after being in the program for six months!
The reason normal people don’t go around engaging in violent crime is because it isn’t worth the risk as compared to other options. All we need to do is provide people the smallest sliver of hope and opportunity and they are willing to take it.
People just need decent options to make decent choices in life.
Anyhow this should all be obvious. So, I think the real story lurking here is the possibility for radical transformation that a basic income offers. This program targets the 50 people in the community who are most likely to kill someone or be killed. Imagine if everyone in the community got the money instead of just a handful of people. Imagine if this had been happening since the “criminals” were born.
Imagine if everyone in the country got a thousand dollars a month and we eradicated poverty once and for all!
One of the things that Devone Boggan, the director of the ONS program, says “They are dying as a result of despair and a lack of hope, and what these relationships do – what this agency is all about – is dealing and delivering large doses of hope … I want them to desire to live.”
A universal basic income would provide everyone in the country with tremendous hope and opportunity. It is tragedy and crime that extreme poverty, lack of opportunity, and hopeless continue to destroy the lives of young people all across this country.