PENNSYLVANIA — Budget Compromise Yields Mixed Results for Front-End Crime Prevention Programs
HARRISBURG, PA. (October 10, 2009) The 220 Pennsylvania police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys that comprise the anti-crime organization FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS PENNSYLVANIA applaud the passage of the 2009-2010 state budget, which includes level funding for high-quality early childhood education programs shown to prevent future crime. But major cuts to crime prevention programs in the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency pose a threat to public safety.
The agreed upon final budget package level funds Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance funding at 2008-09 levels ($86.412 million and $39.48 million, respectively). As a result, more than 17,000 at-risk children throughout the Commonwealth will benefit from these high-quality programs.
“Our members know that hardened criminals must be locked-up, but they also realize that we will never arrest and imprison our way out of the crime problem,” said Bruce R. Clash, state director for FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS PENNSYLVANIA. “By maintaining our state investment in early childhood education, we are ensuring that at-risk young children will have an early opportunity to learn and build a strong foundation, increasing the likelihood that
they will succeed in school and become productive adults, not tomorrow’s criminals.”
A long-term study of the high-quality Perry Preschool Program in Michigan found that by age 40, the kids left out of the program were 85 percent more likely to be sentenced to jail or prison than those who attended the program. Another study showed that at-risk kids who did not attend Chicago’s Child-Parent Centers were 24 percent more likely to be incarcerated than similar kids who did attend.
Despite the positive budget outcome for early education, law enforcement leaders continue to lament that roughly 65 percent of Pennsylvania’s at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds are still without access to quality early learning programs. This statistic reveals a crime prevention gap that needlessly threatens the futures of many Pennsylvania children and will ultimately generate more crime, violence and increased prison costs in the years to come.
Unfortunately, the just-approved budget makes dramatic and short-sighted cuts to the Evidence-Based Prevention and Intervention, the Research-Based Violence Prevention and numerous other line items within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. These line items fund programs that are proven to cut crime and save taxpayer dollars.
Law enforcement leaders point to the fact that Pennsylvania will now spend more than $1.8 billion this year to operate its Corrections system containing nearly 51,000 inmates as a battle cry for investing in at-risk children and youth. As incarceration figures are projected to rise, it is obvious to members of FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS PENNSYLVANIA that we must prevent kids from turning to crime in the first place. Doing so would save the public millions of dollars and make all of us safer.