When former California state Senator Leland Yee went to prison for selling his vote and arranging an illegal shipment of guns – even though he publicly presented himself as a gun control advocate – he thought he’d never work for the government again.
But that was before Sacramento needed mentors for a $1.5 million anti-gun gang prevention program.
Last week, after a Meadowview park shooting, the Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to try a different approach to gang violence by funding the “Advance Peace” program.
“The program pays gang members to graduate school and stop shooting at people,” says Blue Lives Matter. “If a gang member wants to start killing people, they’ll be forfeiting their taxpayer-funded payday.”
For 18 months, program participants known as “good fellas” will be given mentoring, educational and job-training opportunities. After six months without shooting someone, they can receive up $1,000 per month for nine months.
“The strategy itself has seven daily touch-points that includes working with each of these fellows to create an 18-month life map, which is essentially an assessment to a goal development sheet and a map that helps the individual connect the dots,” said CEO DeVonne Boggan.
The 68-year-old Yee is getting out of prison just in time to get back into the anti-gun business. A Democrat from San Francisco, Yee was ensnared by an FBI investigation that spanned several years and led to the convictions of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a reputed Chinatown mobster, Keith Jackson, a former school board president and fundraiser for Lee, and others.
“I devoted much of my life to the work of the community, to people in San Francisco and in the state of California,” Yee told reporters just outside the prison gates. “Now I have the opportunity to devote more of my life to the people of Sacramento.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a former state senator himself, said Yee brings a special set of skills to the problem of gun violence. “We’re also in negotiations to gain the early release of Mr. Chow, who is serving a life sentence,” Steinberg said. “We desperately need the expertise of these reformed citizens.”
Although he “once ruled over the criminal underworld in San Francisco’s Chinatown,” he also “gave speeches to schools and community groups and even created a Facebook page.”
His anti-gun and gang prevention efforts earned him “change agent” awards from California Democrats including Dianne Feinstein, Tom Ammiano, and Ed Lee, among others.
“We celebrate your tenacity and your exceptional service as a valued member of our community,” wrote Ammiano in 2012. “Your efforts to turn your life around and help other (sic) to do the same have been an inspiration to us all.”
Although Chow is still serving his sentence with others caught up in the FBI probe of Senator Yee, the City of Sacramento believes he can continue his good works from inside the pen.
“If there’s anyone who knows how to work the system, it’s Shrimp Boy,” said Sacramento Vice Mayor Rick Jennings. “Part of Senator Yee’s job will be transferring valuable intelligence between Chow and Advance Peace. We are all in this together.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new information about Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow.