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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

A study gave cash and therapy to men at risk of criminal behavior

Sigal Samuel 
Originally posted 31 MAY 22

Here is an excerpt:

Inspired by the program in Liberia, Chicago has been implementing a similar but more intensive program called READI. Over the course of 18 months, men in the city’s most violent districts participate in therapy sessions in the morning, followed by job training in the afternoon. The rationale for the latter is that in a place with a well-developed labor market like Chicago, the best way to improve earnings is probably to get people into the market, whereas in Liberia, the labor market is much less efficient, so it made more sense to offer people cash.

“We’ll have more results this summer,” said Blattman of the READI program, which he is helping to advise. So far, “it doesn’t look like a slam dunk.”

Still, Chicago is eager to try these therapy-based approaches, having already had some success with them. The city is also home to a program called Becoming a Man (BAM), where high schoolers do CBT-inspired group sessions. A randomized controlled trial showed that criminal arrests fell by about half during the BAM program. Even though effects dissipated over time, the program looks to be very cost-effective.

But this isn’t just a story about the growing recognition that therapy can play a useful role in preventing crime. That trend is part of a broader movement to adopt an approach to crime that is more carrot, less stick.

“It’s all about a progressive, rational policy for social control. Social inclusion is the most productive means of social control,” David Brotherton, a sociologist at the City University of New York, explained to me in 2019.

Brotherton has long argued that mainstream US policy is counterproductively coercive and punitive. His research has shown that helping at-risk people reintegrate into mainstream society — including by offering them cash — is much more effective at reducing violence.