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Mississippi needs to invest in high-quality pre-K to help cut crime

March 12, 2018
Mike Ezell
The Sun-Herald

Being the sheriff of Jackson County means having to make a lot of tough decisions. That comes with the territory. Every day, my job requires me to make decisions that I know may put officers’ lives on the line. But I do so with the understanding that their brave work will ensure our communities are safe places to work, play, worship and live.

But, when given the choice to prevent a crime before it happens, or to deal with the consequences after the fact, that decision is an easy one.

That’s also why, when it comes to investing in high-quality pre-K, I believe our state should answer with a resounding “yes.”

Making that investment is an easy call because one of the most effective ways to prevent crime is to provide children with the tools they need to lead successful lives that are free of criminal activity — and one of the best ways to deliver these tools is through high-quality pre-K.

Research tells us what law enforcement officers already know to be true: Kids who get a strong start in life are more likely to stay in school, graduate high school and lead lives free of crime. A report from the national anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids cites one study that found children who participated in a high-quality pre-K program in Chicago were almost 30 percent more likely to graduate high school by age 20. Meanwhile, kids who did not participate in the program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18.

In Mississippi, where nearly one-fifth of our youth do not graduate from high school on time, and where 5 percent of teens under the age of 18 have been arrested, pre-K could go a long way toward building our students’ success and our communities’ public safety. …