Columnist questions unusual method of dealing with criminals

I heard on CBC news today (June 28, 2014) that a gentleman from Richmond California has come up with a novel


I heard on CBC news today (June 28, 2014) that a gentleman from Richmond California has come up with a novel but controversial method for dealing with the city’s inordinately high homicide rate.

The strategy, from what I have learned, is to identify the members of the local criminal population most likely to engage in gun violence and through a combination of mentorship and monetary reward, entrench in their psyche the benefits of pro-social behaviour.

Seventeen people in Richmond were identified as the criminals most likely to offend with firearms. They were paid by the city to cease and desist their criminal behaviour. They are compelled to develop a “life map” and work with mentors. They are encouraged to perceive themselves as having earned their pay by not shooting someone (sanctioned extortion). They are compelled to attend a training program for 16 months before they start to earn the $1,000 per month payment. The director of safety, is an impassioned and I believe properly motivated man whose ascendance to directorship was driven by the perceived merits of his proposed program.

A dedicated criminal by his very nature will with expressions of most sincere gratitude accept the handouts and then at an opportune time pull on a balaclava and rob their benefactor once again.

Out here in rural Western Canada we probably lack the cosmopolitan sophistication necessary to appreciate the complexities of such an apparently bewildering problem. When the fox invades the henhouse we do not blame the fox for being a fox, his appetite must be satisfied in some way but we do not pay the fox to stay out of the henhouse. If that illustration seems casuistic, perhaps asking this question will frame the problem more clearly: how many times do you have to feed a rattlesnake before you can pet him?  Now I suppose I will be accused of sophistry … OK, abandon the allegories, metaphors and all literary devices, How about this; set trap by henhouse – catch fox – administer an unpleasantness of sufficient intensity to lodge event in fox’s brain – turn fox loose. Presto, rehabilitation of the most genuine and permanent kind.

My attempts at sarcasm and humour in the preceding paragraph I hope only slightly mask the revulsion that a person of normal conscience and intelligence should feel at having to consider such a bizarre and obscene solution to such a grievous problem.

I must add that the statistics indicating the success of this program cannot be refuted on prima facie merit. My contention is that human nature can only be temporarily adjusted or altered by reward but never truly corrected by that means.

For objective certainty, I encourage anyone interested in this topic to access the CBC archives for this date.


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