A push is underway to promote early childhood education as a way to reduce crime.
Advocates admit this is a long-term solution, but argue that money spent upfront in the first few years of life could make the difference between a child growing up to be a criminal or growing up to be a productive member of society.
State Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha stated during a news conference in Lincoln the discussion underway at the Capitol on reducing prison over-crowding needs to be expanded.
“It’s obvious we have a problem. We have got to find a way to lower our prison rates. I don’t think anyone wants to build new prisons,” Harr said. “So, the question is, how do we do that? It’s not an overnight fix.”
A group called “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids,” hosted the news conference at the Justice and Law Enforcement Center in Lincoln.
The group touts research which indicates early childhood education has a number of benefits, including reducing crime. Its report, “I’m the guy you pay later,” outlines the benefits, such as a drop in abuse and neglect, better school outcomes, less need for special education, better reading and math scores, fewer drop-outs, and less crime.
The report argues that states can either fund pre-Kindergarten education or pay a greater price down the road when children grow into a life of crime.
The group has attracted the support of 5,000 law officers throughout the country, including nearly 80 in Nebraska.
Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady spoke for the Nebraska officers, stating that the current discussion about ways to fight crime needs to be broadened to ways to prevent crime.
“So, if we can expand the discussion a little bit and get all of our citizens to start thinking more about the importance of prevention so that we’re really not just thinking about the end of the road, with adding a judge, increasing the number of deputy sheriffs, and building a new jail, I think we’ll all be better off for that discussion,” Casady reasoned.
Sen. Harr acknowledged that can be a difficult argument to make in the Unicameral, but insisted it is one that can be made.
“We policy makers, just like law enforcement, we like our facts,” Harr said. “So now, we have facts that prove, it’s not easy, but over the long term this is the better way.”
AUDIO: Open to news conference on the benefits of early childhood education. [9 min.]