President Barack Obama’s proposed universal preschool program could reduce the number of people incarcerated nationwide by 200,000 every year and lead to a savings of $75 billion over 10 years, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Washington-based advocacy organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, which includes 5,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and violence survivors.
The report, entitled “I’m the guy you pay later,” compiled research from various states linking preschool participation and home visits to crime and further polled law enforcement officers on which types of activities would be most likely to prevent crime.
In addition, more than 1,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, and prosecutors signed a letter sent to Congress urging that Obama’s proposal be enacted.
“One of the reasons why I stay involved in Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is that they look at the research,” said Donald E. Ash, Sheriff of Wyandotte County, Kan., which includes Kansas City.
Among the report’s most compelling statistics, the report states that:
• By age 40, children who participated in the long-term Ypsilanti, Mich., Perry Preschool Project 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 served by the Denver-based nonprofit 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.
• Those who took part in Chicago’s Child-Parent Center 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.
The report also looked at correlations between preschool and crime in the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.
In those places, children who attended preschool had fewer behavior problems, improved school readiness, reduced special education, greater literacy and math achievement that continued through elementary school, and were less likely to be high school drop-outs, the report stated. In addition, fewer children were held back in school.
Moreover, officers polled for the report added that “increasing high-quality preschool and home visiting services 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.”
An earlier headline on this item included an incorrect figure for projected savings from the program. The correct figure is $75 billion.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.