Early-childhood education is the way to stop crime in the bud, Sheriff Ken Furlong said Thursday.
“Fight Crime: Invest in Kids” is a nationwide program aimed at convincing people that preschool education is the way to make sure children become successful in school and life instead of becoming a burden on the criminal justice system. Spokesman Chris Beakey said the evidence is clear that ensuring children get a solid start in school dramatically reduces problems as they grow up, as well as the number who end up in prison.
The program could reduce the number of people imprisoned in Nevada every year by 1,300, Furlong said — about 10 percent of the current total prison population of nearly 13,000. With the cost to house one prisoner at about $20,000 a year, that would save the state $26 million.
“We can continue with the status quo, which is leading too many people to failure in school, involvement in crime and incarceration, or we can take a different course leading more kids to success in school,” Furlong said.
He was joined by Carson City School District Superintendent Richard Stokes, Mayor Robert Crowell and Juvenile Division Special Master Kristin Luis.
The school district deals with children from kindergarten through adulthood, even providing education in the area’s prisons, Stokes said.
“But this is about preschool,” he said. “It would be a huge benefit to our community.”
Children who have a better vocabulary, some math skills and some social skills are the ones who succeed in school, Stokes said.
Luis said her court deals with delinquents as young as 8 and, in child-welfare cases, from birth through age 21.
When parents aren’t involved, she said, disruptive behavior starts to show up at a young age.
“The age-old problem is, how do you get parents engaged?” Crowell said.
Both said many of the children in the juvenile court system are products of families in which the parents didn’t know how to raise their children.
Programs for the young now will help those people “change the cycle they went through” when they become parents, Luis said.
Asked how they propose to pay for the preschool programs he estimated would require $75 billion, Beakey said it’s a proposal by the Obama administration.
“It’s hard to say at this point how this will be paid for,” he said.
He also said there isn’t yet a bill in Congress spelling out how the program would work and be paid for, but that one suggestion has been a tobacco tax.