DAs: Invest in Pre-K or See More Criminals

Five of the region’s top prosecutors say paying for early childhood education now will reduce the number of criminals in the future.

In a report released on Wednesday, the bipartisan, nonprofit organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids highlights research showing how preschooling throughout the country resulted in an increase in high school graduates and decrease in incarcerated individuals. The organization's hope is to expand those results and bring a larger overall reduction in crime nationally by starting the kids off on the right path from the start of their educational careers.

To garner support, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids launched a public relations campaign called “I’m the Guy You’ll Pay Later” to get the word out about the report, signing on Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, Montgomery County DA Risa Vetri-Ferman, Chester County DA Thomas Hogan, Delaware County DA John Whelan and Cumberland County DA David Freed.

“You wouldn’t think that you’d have five district attorneys here talking about the need to invest in early childhood education,” Williams said during a press conference outside the SCI Chester correctional facility on Wednesday morning.

“We want our government to invest in, invest money now in our kids so that you don’t have to pay us later. So that we don’t have to build prisons like this and keep filling them,” Vetri-Ferman said of SCI Chester.

Citing research done at a Chicago preschool and parental coaching program, the report estimates that an additional investment of $75 billion in early childhood education by states and the federal government over the next 10 years for would result in 2 million additional high school graduates – 63,000 of which would be in Pa.

The Chicago Child-Parent Program found its students were 20-percent less likely to have served time in jail or prison by age 24. Those not served by the program were 70-percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18.

With a stronger investment in a similar program that achieves the same results, Pa. could decrease its prisoner population by more than 5,000 people a year and save $195 million annually, the report states.

In Pennsylvania, the number of four-year-olds in state preschools doubled over the past decade and the state has increased funding for preschool by $6.4 million in the next budget, according to the report. An investment that the DAs applaud.

The prosecutors say they also support a proposal from The Obama Administration to ensure the $75 billion in funding comes through starting with the 2014 budget.

“No child is destined from birth to end up in jail,” Hogan said.

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