Rather than locking up repeat offenders, the city of Washington D.C. is considering an alternative that would incentivize them to behave.
Earlier this month, the D.C. Council passed the NEAR Act, a bill that would, in part, pay offenders a yearly stipend to stay in behavioral health and job placement programs. The most likely candidates would be criminals who have previous offenses involving firearms and who police consider a risk to reoffend.
Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who represents Ward 5 in D.C., says the city needs to start looking at its crime problem through the lens of public health, and he hopes this program will be a start. It’s modeled off of a program that was implemented in Richmond, California, which has seen a marked decrease in homicides ever since.
Still, it’s unclear whether the unanimous support Councilmember McDuffie won from his colleagues on the D.C. Council will translate into action. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she is concerned the bill doesn’t actually present a provision to fight crime and that the plan isn’t a balanced approach. There are also sure to be issues raised around funding the program and implementing it in a city the size of Washington D.C.
Do you think incentivizing good behavior is a sustainable crime prevention model? What concerns, if any, do you have about the optics of the program?
Eugene O’Donnell, professor of law and police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; former NYPD officer and former prosecutor in Kings County, New York