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Law Enforcement Leaders Release Report Showing Administration’s Early Learning Proposal Could Lead to 200,000 Fewer Prisoners Each Year

Washington, D.C., Sept. 3, 2013—Thousands of police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors who are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released a report – I’m the guy you pay later” – that shows implementation of a proposed state-federal early childhood education partnership could reduce the number of people who are incarcerated nationwide by 200,000 every year and lead to $75 billion in cost savings over 10 years.

More than 1,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, and prosecutors from across the nation signed a letter urging Congress to work in partnership with the Administration to enact the proposal, which would provide states with resources to create, strengthen and expand quality preschool to serve  low- and moderate-income four-year-olds, and early childhood development programs for more children from birth through age three.

The proposal also expands funds for voluntary home visiting programs that can reduce child abuse and neglect by helping young parents understand their children’s health needs, create safer home environments and develop parenting skills.

The law enforcement leaders cited significant research documenting the impact of quality early education on crime reduction. “I’m the Guy You Pay Later” notes that the federal cost of the preschool element of the proposal, $75 billion over 10 years, is only one-tenth of the $75 billion that is spent every year to incarcerate adults in federal and state prisons and local jails. The report also shows that implementing the proposal could save $75 billion over the next 10 years as a result of lowered costs for incarceration, thereby paying for the proposal’s federal costs.

“My colleagues in law enforcement make no apologies for locking up violent criminals, but the public will be a lot safer in the long run if we can keep more people from becoming involved in crime in the first place,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca, who manages the nation’s largest local jail system, with a capacity for approximately 20,000 inmates. “Right now we’re at a fork in the road with a simple choice – pay a reasonable amount of money so states can get more at-risk kids in quality preschool programs today, or pay guys like us a lot more to deal with the millions who will be incarcerated in the years ahead.”

Cook County Illinois Sheriff Tom Dart, who manages the nation’s largest single site jail, added: “It doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots when you know that seven out of 10 state prisoners don’t have a high school diploma. Most of these people will tell you that their troubles in school started early and that it was very hard to catch up once they fell behind. Quality preschool will ultimately lead more kids to succeed in school and stay out of the criminal justice system.”

Mason Dixon poll and bi-partisan action show widespread support

The Fight Crime: Invest in Kids members also referred to a nationwide Mason Dixon poll of law enforcement leaders conducted in July and August that showed overwhelming support for the proposal.

“Law enforcement leaders have spoken loud and clear with their support for the Administration’s proposal, with eight in 10 saying Congress needs to find a way to make it happen,” said Baca. “We need to put politics aside and support strategies that have a proven impact on reducing crime and saving taxpayer dollars.”

Law enforcement leaders responding to the poll ranked “increasing high quality preschool and home visiting services” as the strategy that would have the greatest long-term impact on crime reduction, compared to tougher sentencing for juvenile offenders, hiring more police to investigate juvenile crime, installing more metal detectors and cameras in schools, or making parents legally liable for their children’s crimes.

A national Public Opinion Strategies/Hart Research survey of registered voters released on July 31 also found that 70 percent of Americans favor providing preschool to all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds and expanding home visiting and parent education programs and early education and care for infants and toddlers. Support was strong across the political spectrum, including 60 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Independents.

“I’m the guy you pay later” notes there is significant bi-partisan support for quality preschool and early childhood programs. In 2013, 25 states – more than half of which are headed by Republican governors – proposed or signed into law expansions of state preschool programs.

Research shows crime reduction and academic outcomes

The report highlights reductions in crime and incarceration among participants of three key programs that primarily served children from low-income families.

Children who participated in the Chicago Child-Parent Center (CPC) preschool program were 20 percent less likely to have been incarcerated by age 24 than non-participants, while non-participants were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18.

By age 40, children who participated in Ypsilanti, Michigan’s Perry Preschool were 46 percent less likely than non-participants to have been sentenced to prison or jail. Non-participants were five times more likely to be chronic offenders with five or more arrests by the age of 27.

Children served by the Nurse-Family Partnership home visiting program were half as likely to be convicted of a crime by the age of 19 as those not served.

“I’m the guy you pay later” highlights studies of state preschool programs in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and North Carolina that achieved numerous positive and sustained outcomes, including fewer behavior problems, improved school readiness, reduced special education, fewer children held back, literacy and math achievement that continued through elementary school, and fewer high school drop-outs.

The report also notes that a Washington Institute for Public Policy analysis of over 20 preschool programs demonstrated that quality preschool returned an average “profit” (net economic benefit) to society of $15,000 for every child served, by cutting crime and the cost of incarceration and reducing other costs such as special education and welfare. That same cost-benefit analysis found that the Nurse-Family Partnership voluntary home visiting program led to a net economic benefit of more than $13,000 per child served.

To learn more about the state-federal early learning proposal or to view the full report, visit www.fightcrime.org.

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