San Francisco is launching an initiative to pay ex-criminals to be “public safety ambassadors” and to not shoot, kill, or injure people in order to reduce crime and gun violence.
The “Dream Keeper Fellowship” program will pay $300 dollars to ten participants who are believed to be at high risk for shooting others or being shot themselves. Participants must first pass an interview and then accept the mentorship of life coaches from San Francisco’s Street Violence Intervention Program.
The program will be funded by private donations, taxpayer dollars and a potential federal grant.
Sheryl Davis, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, believes the program will benefit crime-ridden communities.
“These small investments can transform the lives of individuals, but they can also transform communities,” she said.
Participants of the program are also expected to give back to the community.
“As a part of their participation, they are expected to do some conversations around public safety, to do some goal setting for themselves, to also think about how they can influence and impact their communities to be better,” Davis continued.
The program is being rolled out by the Human Rights Commission and Office of Economic and Workforce Development, which in turn is funded through the Dream Keeper Initiative. The initiative is a San Francisco program that works to redirect funding into the Black community.
Since the pandemic, the San Francisco Police Department has documented an increase in burglary, theft and assault. So far, there have been nearly 30,000 crimes reported in 2021 according to KCENT-TV.
Shootings have also spiked in the city, with 119 recorded gun crime victims in the first half of the year.
The program is not without some controversy. Critics like Yolanda Ficklin-Prontho, who lost her son to gun violence, argue that such programs give ex-criminals more money to buy guns.
A similar program in Richmond, California was dubbed by the media as “cash for criminals.”
Washington Examiner’s David Freddoso argued that such programs do not work.
“Violent criminals need jail. They do not need cash. People who shoot other people need to be walled off in prisons and kept away from the rest of us,” he said.
Davis responded that critics were misguided.
“It’s not necessarily as cut and dry as folks may think. It’s not as transactional as, ‘Here’s a few dollars so that you don’t do something bad,’ but it really is about how you help us improve public safety in the neighborhood,” she said.
According to Newsweek, participants in the program are eligible for an additional $200 to go to school, work a job or act as a mediator in violent situations.
All payments will be made through gift cards and are monitored, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
SF Mayor London Breed also voiced her support for the program.
“My desire is to get to them, not to just make an arrest, but to get to them and to try and figure out if they would be willing to work with us on something that is an alternative. We can’t just put them in a program without making sure that they have money, without making sure that they have something to take care of themselves,” Breed said at a Violence Prevention Summit hosted by The Human Rights Commission.