October 23, 2011

Early childhood education reduces crime costs

I applaud and appreciate the recent column by state Rep. Patrick Flood emphasizing the important long-term fiscal benefits from investments in high-quality early education programs such as Head Start and quality pre-kindergarten programs.

As police chief, I would add that early childhood education also is cost-efficient because it can help reduce crime and significantly cut corrections costs.

Law enforcement professionals know that youngsters who start school behind are much more likely to drop out of school before graduation and become involved in crime as a teen or adult. Research shows a clear connection between educational success and decreased involvement in crime.

Researchers have found that even a one-year increase of school completion can significantly reduce such crimes as murder and assault, arson, burglary and larceny. Almost 70 percent of America's state prison inmates don't have even a high school diploma.

Giving at-risk children these opportunities can make a critical difference in steering them toward success and away from a life of crime and government dependence.

A longterm study of Michigan's High/Scope Perry Preschool program found that at-risk children who did not participate in the high-quality program were five times more likely to be chronic offenders by age 27 than children who did attend, and participants were 44 percent more likely to graduate from high school.

The Perry program cut crime, welfare and other costs so much that taxpayers saved an average of $180,000 for every child served, mostly from reduced crime.

Police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys across Maine strongly support our state's investment in early care and education. It offers children a better future, saves far more than it costs and makes our communities safer places to live, work and raise a family.

Joseph E. Young Sr.

Winthrop Chief of Police


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