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Law enforcement delegation urges support for early childhood care and education to steer kids away from crime, cut prison costs, save taxpayer dollars
JACKSON, Miss. (Feb. 15, 2012) — Does Mississippi’s fight against crime start with earlier educational opportunities for kids? According to a delegation of Mississippi law enforcement leaders who met today with Gov. Phil Bryant (R), investing in high-quality early care and childhood education for the youngest kids can help Mississippi accomplish that goal.
The group met with Gov. Bryant at the State Capitol to stress their support for early childhood education and other children’s services as a way to boost community safety. Participating in the meeting were Walls Chief of Police Gary Boisseau and Ridgeland Chief of Police Jimmy Houston. Biloxi Chief John Miller and Assistant Chief Rodney McGilvary participated in the meeting by phone. The group recognized Gov. Bryant’s dedication to public safety and law enforcement and discussed opportunities to prevent crime through investment in early childhood development. Prior to his career in elective office, Bryant served as a Hinds County deputy sheriff, leaving the department in 1981 after becoming chief of detectives.
“Cutting the dropout rate and improving educational opportunities for at-risk kids will help us reduce violent crime and improve public safety in Mississippi communities,” Chief Boisseau said. “The best place to start with all of this is by providing young children with early childhood education.”
During his first State of the State Address, Gov. Bryant highlighted the important need to improve the quality and fiscal efficiency of early childhood services in Mississippi. He also explained in his remarks his personal concern for improving literacy for all children, telling a story about how he was able to overcome a learning disability in elementary school through the help of a dedicated teacher named Mrs. Henley.
The law enforcement leaders recommended that Gov. Bryant and other Mississippi state officials implement a strong early childhood development and learning system for kids from birth to age five and asked him to ensure that state funding remains intact in the short term and increases in years to come. They thanked Gov. Bryant and Lt. Gov. Reeves bringing a new focus on early childhood education in Mississippi.
They cited evidence from long-term research studies showing high-quality early care and education programs reduce the likelihood that at-risk children will commit crimes as adults.
New research findings published last year in the prestigious journal Science strengthen the argument that high-quality early education can reduce crime. A follow-up at age 28 of over 1,400 low-income children in Chicago found that those who did not attend the Child-Parent Center preschools were 27 percent more likely to have a felony arrest by age 26 and were 39 percent more likely to have spent time in jail. An earlier analysis of the preschool programs found that taxpayers ultimately saved more than $10 for every $1 spent because of reduced crime, corrections and other costs to society.
Additionally, a study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina found that children who attended a high-quality early care and education program were four times more likely to have earned a college degree by age 30, compared to similar children who did not attend.
Currently, Mississippi has no state-funded pre-kindergarten or early childhood education program. The federally-funded Head Start program serves a large number of children in the state. Head Start serves over 26,000 Mississippi children at a cost of $167 million and the Child Care and Development Block Grant serves 27,000 children at a cost of $78 million. Mississippi also has a private- public partnership called Mississippi Building Blocks that seeks to improve quality in child care centers.
“Supporting the development and education of young children is in the best interest of improving public safety and saving taxpayer dollars. It’s a lot easier and a heck of a lot cheaper to open up school doors than slam shut a prison cell,” Chief Houston said. “We hope that Gov. Bryant will consider the significant evidence showing that early childhood education is an important investment for the future of our state.”
The chiefs are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and violence survivors nationwide, including 91 in Mississippi.