Washington, D.C., is moving forward with a crime prevention bill that will give monetary incentives to criminals and people at risk of committing violent crimes to follow the law.
The Democrat-controlled D.C. Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the crime bill, which focuses on health strategies to reduce crime rates, rather than stiffer penalties and harsher sentencing as a deterrent. The bill, authored by Council Member Kenyan McDuffie, is drawing criticism over a provision which exempts details of the “pay for peace” program from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), reports Washington City Paper.
The crime bill would create an Office of Violence Prevention and Health Equity which will implement an array of new programs including cognitive therapy and the “pay for peace” provision. McDuffie’s bill requires annual reports on the progress and effectiveness of the program, including demographic figures and recruitment numbers, however the bill specifically exempts FOIA requests on the reports.
McDuffie’s office says it is to protect personal information, however the legislation already mandates the status reports be “protective of personally-identifying information.” So while there will be annually accrued data on the program’s results, the results will not be accessible to the public.
The provision, which the Council first approved in an initial reading of the law in early February, would pay as many as 200 individuals up to $9,000 year to participate in therapy programs and stop committing crimes. McDuffie argues the program, modeled off a similar law in California, will work because rewards deter crime better than punishments, reports The Washington Times.
“One homicide in the District is one too many. We know that we cannot simply arrest our way out of crime; prevention is key,” McDuffie said at the Tuesday hearing. “This comprehensive bill is a step in the right direction.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced a crime prevention package last year that focused on tougher penalties for offenders, but the Council never considered the legislation. The Council voted down legislation backed by Bowser in January which would have increased penalties for crimes committed on public transit in the city. The mayor’s office has not made a statement regarding her position on the bill.
“It’s weird and it’s dumb,” John Gaul, a lifelong district citizen, told WUSA9. “If it’s serious, if people are trying to do it, DC’s got a lot better places to spend their money. That’s just silly.”
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