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New York Law Enforcement Leaders: We Are at a Fork in the Road

SYRACUSE, NY (October 24, 2013) — New York members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids gathered at the Onondaga County Justice Center today to release 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 in New York by 6,500 and lead to $282 million in cost savings every year.

Chief Esteban Gonzalez and Chief John Balloni of the Onondaga County Sheriffs Office, Chief Frank Fowler of the Syracuse Police Department, ADA Rick Trunfio, and advocate Janice Grieshaber Geddes spoke at the event. More than 1,000 Fight Crime: Invest in Kids members have 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 state preschool to serve low- and moderate-income four-year-olds nationwide. The proposal would also expand early childhood development programs for more children from birth through age three, including 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 sheriffs, police chiefs and prosecutors base their support on significant research documenting the impact of quality early childhood programs 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 10 years as a result of lowered costs for incarceration, which is equivalent to the proposal’s federal costs.

The nation is therefore at a critical “fork in the road” with the opportunity to reduce the number of future inmates by putting millions of children on a more secure path to school and life success.

Chief Balloni said, “I know from my personal experience that we can’t simply arrest, prosecute and incarcerate our way out of crime problems. We have to implement strategies that keep people from turning to crime in the first place. The report we’re releasing today – “I’m the Guy You Pay Later” – points to the simple wisdom of investing in quality early learning programs now . . . as opposed to paying much more to lock people up in the years to come.”

 According to ADA Rick Trunfio, “This state-federal partnership will enable New York to create a comprehensive, high-quality early learning system (and to) strengthen and expand our existing Pre-K, Head Start, and childcare programs.”

Chief Gonzalez offered that, “High-quality early learning programs, such as pre-k and child care, are proven to help kids succeed in school and become productive, law-abiding adults.  Years of research show three strong outcomes:

  • Kids learn better at home and in school;
  • Kids get along better with other kids;
  • Kids graduate and earn more in jobs.

For those of us in law enforcement, there is a fourth outcome – Crime Reduction.”

 Chief Frank Fowler reiterated the positive outcomes possible from the President’s proposal:

  • A chance to go from having 2 million adults in jail or prison to having 2 million more high school graduates – including more than 100,000 in New York.
  • An investment that will pay for itself by reducing costs to taxpayers in New York and across the nation.
  • And 6,500 fewer inmates and $282 million in cost savings to our state every year.

Finally, Janice Grieshaber Geddes spoke to the personal toll crime takes. “Too often we address abuse, neglect and violence after it has occurred. My family is just one victim of that tactic. I have spent the last 15 years advocating for a better way. Expanding home visitation programs is a matter of public safety. Policymakers need to understand the value of these programs and support increased investments.”

 Mason Dixon poll and bipartisan 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 Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca, who heads the nation’s largest jail. “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

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

The report was released at a time of significant bipartisan support for quality preschool, home visiting and early childhood programs. In 2013, New York’s governor and the governors of 24 other states – more than half of whom are Republican – proposed and/or signed into law expansions of preschool.

Research shows academic and crime reduction outcomes

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

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 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.

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, and the program was shown to cut child abuse and neglect in half.

 “I’m the Guy You Pay Later” also highlights studies of state preschool programs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, 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.