To the Editor:
Recently I joined nine other Illinois law enforcement leaders in Springfield, to meet with Gov. Pritzker and state legislators. Our message: let’s get a grip on our state’s crime problem by supporting programs that give children the best start in life.
It is an approach that elected policymakers on both sides of the aisle were receptive to, and one elucidated in your article “Reports endorse investment in early childhood education” (4/26/19). A new report from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, cited in the article, provides research that “one of the best ways to keep young people from becoming criminals is to give them a foundation for success in their earliest years.”
Despite the bipartisan consensus on the value of preschool, however, we still fall far short of meeting the needs of our families. In Will County, 70% of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds are not being served by either state-funded prekindergarten or the federal Head Start program. In addition, we need the infrastructure to house these initiatives.
Unfortunately, the children that go without the advantage of early childhood education are more likely to eventually end up in one of my jail cells. That’s a sad truth that we —and our elected officials — ignore at our peril.
The economic costs of incarceration adds to fiscal instability in our state, as we spend $2.3 billion per year on the incarceration of adults. For every dollar put into proven birth-to-five programs, on the other hand, we get a $13 return on investment.
That was the theme of my visit to the state capital, and of the new Fight Crime report: expanding access to quality early education, and providing adequate physical space for it, will result in better lives for our residents and real savings for our state.
Fred W. Hayes
Elwood Chief of Police