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Mentorship in Richmond provides opportunities to avoid crime

There are probably a number of our readers who have thought about the justice system and asked: what is the purpose of a criminal sentence? While the obvious answer says that a criminal sentence is designed to deter someone from committing a crime, some have argued that it may not fulfill this purpose every time. In some cases, alternative methods can be more successful at preventing someone from becoming a repeat offender.

At least that’s what a mentorship in Richmond can demonstrate for our San Diego readers. Called the Office of Neighboring Safety, the program reaches out to at-risk individuals who have been “failed by the legal system and social services.” Over the course of 18 months, participants are taught how to avoid conflicts that could lead to violent altercations and potential criminal charges. Participants also receive help with making family and career goals as well.

Though similar programs in other large cities across the nation, including Boston and Chicago, have also been linked to the decrease in crimes from year to year, there is no data that would support this claim for Richmond. That’s not to say, however that the program isn’t working. Some believe that the efforts of ONS are the reason why homicide rates are down in the city. According to data, Richmond saw 45 homicides in 2009 compared to the seven that have happened in 2014 so far.

One feature ONS has that is not found in other programs is its cash incentive. Every two months, if a participant meets one of their goals or takes part in an internship prearranged by ONS, that participant is eligible to earn a stipend of up to $1,000. Unfortunately, according to the lead mentor, fewer than 50 percent of participants have received the stipend and less than that have been awarded the full $1,000.

Source: The Independent, “How to reduce gun crime in California? Why not pay people not to shoot each other?” Tim Walker, July 5, 2014

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