During a balmy 60ºF December morning, Rene Zepeda is driving a Volunteers of America minivan through Salt Lake City, Utah, looking for the homeless who may be camping by the railroad tracks or over by the river, sometimes in the foothills. Cold weather is on its way, so the van is packed with sleeping bags, thermal clothing, coats, sock, boots, hats, protein bars, nutrition drinks and canned goods. According to Rene, once the day is finished, everything will be gone. “I want to get them into homes,” he says. “I tell them, ‘I’m working for you. I want to get you out of the homeless situation.’”
Rene works for a program called Housing First. It has decreased the number of homeless by an extraordinary 72% — mainly by providing permanent free housing. Critics bemoan the expense, but once the numbers were thoroughly crunched, it was discovered the program actually costs the state far less than if people were left on the street. Moreover, in a nation where a large proportion of the homeless population are military veterans, adopting such a program is not only a social or financial imperative but a moral one…
A basic income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement.
That is, a basic income has the five following characteristics:
Periodic: it is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
Cash payment: it is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
Individual: it is paid on an individual basis—and not, for instance, to households.
Universal: it is paid to all, without means test.
Unconditional: it is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work.
A wide variety of Basic Income proposals are circulating today. They differ along many other dimensions, including in the amounts of the Basic Income, the source of funding, the nature and size of reductions in other transfers that might accompany it, and so on.
Although BIEN has not endorsed any particular proposal, and it is open to people who favor very different proposals, BIEN’s 2016 General Assembly endorsed a very broad description of a proposal in the following resolution:
A majority of members attending BIEN’s General Assembly meeting in Seoul on July 9, 2016, agreed to support Basic Income that is stable in size and frequency and high enough to be, in combination with other social services, part of a policy strategy to eliminate material poverty and enable the social and cultural participation of every individual. We oppose the replacement of social services or entitlements, if that replacement worsens the situation of relatively disadvantaged, vulnerable, or lower-income people…
Norway Proves That Treating Prison Inmates As Human Beings Actually Works.
Bastoy is an open prison, a concept born in Finland during the 1930s and now part of the norm throughout Scandinavia, where prisoners can sometimes keep their jobs on the outside while serving time, commuting daily. Thirty percent of Norway’s prisons are open, and Bastoy, a notorious reformatory for boys converted in 1982 to a prison, is considered the crown jewel of them all.
A small yellow van driven by a smiling officer carried me to a cabin where I checked my phone in, the first thing that remotely suggested “prison.” Tom, the governor ― not warden or superintendent but governor ― looked like Kevin Costner. He offered me a cup of coffee, and we took a seat in his office, which, with its floral drapes, aloe plants and faintly perfumed, cinder scent, reminded me of a quaint bed-and-breakfast somewhere in New England.
“It doesn’t work. We only do it because we’re lazy,” Tom said flatly. He was talking about the traditional prison system, where he was stationed for 22 years before running this open prison. A fly buzzed loudly by the window as Tom went on.
“I started skeptical. That changed quickly. More prisons should be open ― almost all should be. We take as many as we can here, but there isn’t room for everyone.” Prisoners from around the country can apply to move to an open prison like Bastoy when they’re within three years of release. The island is home to about 115 men overseen by over 70 staff members, and there is a waiting list of about 30.
“There’s a perception that, ‘Oh, this is the lightweight prison; you just take the nice guys for the summer-camp prison.’ But in fact, no. Our guys are into, pardon my French, some heavy shit. Drugs and violence. And the truth is, some have been problematic in other prisons but then they come here, and we find them easy. We say, ‘Is that the same guy you called difficult?’ It’s really very simple: Treat people like dirt, and they will be dirt. Treat them like human beings, and they will act like human beings.”