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Should We Pay Criminals to NOT Commit Crimes?

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This is an article that I've been kicking around for a few months. I'd like to say that I came up with that "banana pants" title, but it is largely stolen borrowed from this Washington Post article: Paying criminals not to commit crime may not be so funny after all.

I'd like to be more original with my titles, but...

... being a stay-at-home dad makes working very difficult. I'm usually trying to play with and educate Little Man, which is obviously time-consuming in and of itself.

However, when trying to carve out some time to work, I put on a television show. The show that Little Man wants to watch is Bo on the Go. The show is annoying on so many levels. It's so very far from TumbleLeaf. It's almost like Bo on the Go is trying to annoy people so much that they won't notice that the "solution" is almost always to put the "problem maker" in a Sisyphean task. For example, the current episode I'm watching punishes the "Neat Freak" with a "Never-Ending Puzzle."

It's almost impossible to write a good post in that kind of environment. I'm going to lean on heavily on the "almost"... it's up to you decide what "good" is.

Sorry, that rant escalated quickly. Let's get back to the original topic.

The article from The Washington Post makes a convincing case that paying criminals not to commit crimes actually makes sense. A funny thing about writing is that you never anticipate putting a string of words like that. The article doesn't mince words, focusing on the controversy and "optics" at the start.

I put "optics" in quotes there because "optics" seem too often to be used as a way to hide the "meat" of the issue. (Yes that's a lot of quotes.)

Oddly the "pay-for-peace" plan seems to work. I'm conflicted on the idea. By nature I'm idealistic, but the extremely strong logical side of me appreciates a cost-effective solution to an obviously very complex problem.

In the end, I'm going to agree with the author:

"But then someone asked more of them. They took trips to college campuses, and they were forced to make friends with rivals. For every month they attended meetings, listened to mentors, didn’t get in trouble, they got $1,000.

The cash helped pay rent and buy food. But ultimately, it was the attention to them, their futures and their success that kept those guys coming back, that kept them straight. It’s focused attention to their well-being that many never had before."

So criminals got regular money, not just for avoiding crime, but for actively showing that they are turning their life around. And it's hard to argue that giving positive focused attention is a bad thing.

What do you think? Is paying criminal to be good bad? If that question is too deep, let me know the kids' television show that annoys you (ha, ha).

Posted on May 9, 2016.

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2 Responses to “Should We Pay Criminals to NOT Commit Crimes?”

  1. Geoff says:

    Hey LM,

    I’m the first to admit that I have a very black and white attitude toward criminals. However, in the situation of recidivism, if there is anything we can do to lower those percentages then I am usually for it. I believe the best way to help correct behavior is with positive reinforcement. People have to want to change, and the best way to do that is by providing a means to an end. I have found this to be similar with children. If you give them a task, and it is something that nobody would want to do but is for their own betterment, then there needs to be a prize for achieving the goal. The same can be said for criminals. If you try to tell a criminal that going to school is in their best interest, it will probably fall on deaf ears without a different form of encouragement. Helping them to create value out of their lives while giving them the opportunity to help their families sounds like a great win/win to me.

    P.S. I hate the new cast of The Wiggles and feel that show should have never continued after the originals got old and quit (aside from the blue one because he is still an original).

  2. Big-D says:

    While I agree that the concept of this article intrigued me, and I agree that it might be cool for the beginning of newly released convicts re-integration, long term I think it is a bust. The issue is human behavior. Humans take the path of least resistance in most cases. So paying them hard cash to do some stuff that is rather easy, is right along the lines with what made them a criminal to begin with. There was a study (where I don’t recall, but it was about 8 years ago I read it) about criminals, and general behavioral traits. They stated that a vast majority of criminals are that way (psychologically speaking) because it is must easier to break into someone’s house than to work at McDonald’s for a month to afford that TV .. the path of least resistance. Nothing to do with intelligence, nothing to do with anything than a “I want this” or “society owes me this” and then make the mental leap that crime is not a deterrent for them.

    I am not saying this is not a nice start, but take it to the logical end. They (criminals) want to take the “easy” road. This program will have to be in place, just to keep them from returning to crime, for a long time (decades). So then we now are paying to rehabilitate our inmates for the rest of their lives, and all they have to do is go to some lectures or something every few weeks. I know another program like this, the entire welfare system. Something to provide short term help but has been added on to dozens of times over the decades where we have entire generations of people who get paid not to work.

    Now I am not saying we don’t have to do something different and if this were a short term solution, it would be a great thing. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. All government can do is spend money to solve problems, and that is the problem long term.

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