Prosecutors wanted to Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

Joe McMahan

Texas State Director, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is a national, bipartisan, nonprofit, anti-crime organization of more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, attorneys general, and other law enforcement leaders and violence survivors. It operates under the Council for a Strong America, the umbrella nonprofit for five membership organizations comprising of unique and powerful voices of law enforcement, business, military, faith, and sports, working together to prepare young Americans for success.
    We want to make sure you are aware of our law enforcement organization and the work that our members do to keep children from becoming involved in our criminal justice system, in hopes that you will consider becoming a member. Our organization takes a hard-nosed look at crime prevention strategies, informs the public along with state and federal policymakers about those findings, and urges investments in those programs proven to be effective by research.
    For example, we encourage policymakers to invest in programs like high-quality pre-K, home visiting/parent coaching, after-school programs for children and teens, and interventions to get troubled kids back on track. All of these are proven by research to have the potential to reduce crime. While we don’t provide these programs, our members are critical advocates for making these programs available in their state and educating others of the potential impact on crime prevention these programs have. Even though there are many effective programs geared for teenagers, our organization focuses on early education—that’s because 90 percent of the brain development occurs between birth and 5 years of age.
    “When it comes to the advantages of new approaches that have been shown to be effective, we should join partners who can help children from turning to crime in the first place,” says Henry Garza, District Attorney in Bell County and a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
    As you know from experience, a child who grows up in an at-risk environment is faced with challenges that other kids are not. These challenges negatively affect their behavior and learning abilities, which is why our members advocate for programs that are proven to keep them on the right track, give them an opportunity to succeed, and steer them away from crime. One example of the importance of early education is in regard to the communication between parent and child. Studies indicate that low-income parents speak significantly fewer words to their children than working-class and professional parents speak to their kids; because of this gap, the vocabulary of a lower-income child is limited. By age 3, children of parents receiving welfare had average vocabularies of only 525 words, compared to 749 words for children of working class parents and 1,116 words for children of professional parents.
    The programs for which we advocate are backed by studies and data that show positive outcomes for kids and families, including impact on crime:
•    High-quality pre-kindergarten programs leads to less abuse and neglect, better performance in school, fewer high school drop-outs, and ultimately fewer crimes committed.
•    Children who participated in high-quality pre-K and parent coaching programs though Chicago’s Child-Parent Centers found they were 20 percent less likely to be arrested for a felony or be incarcerated as young adults than those who did not attend.
•    Michigan’s Great Start Readiness program (Pre-K) reported a 35-percent increase in high school graduates.
•    According to a randomized control trial of Nurse Family Partnership (home visiting/parent coaching program) in Elmira, New York, the high-risk mothers who did not receive home visits had more than three times as many crime convictions 15 years after the program began.
    These data points provide a glimpse of why our members advocate for investments in early education. I hope you will consider becoming a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and join more than 200 other law enforcement leaders in Texas. Please keep in mind that our membership is free, and we don’t have meetings. The level of involvement with our organization is totally up to each member. Examples of how our members advocate for these programs include:
•    testifying in committee on a state and federal level,
•    one-on-one visits with your legislator and member of congress,
•    sign-on letters for the Texas Legislature and U.S. Congress and
•    submitting op-eds and letters to the editor of your local newspaper.
    To become a member, visit our website at www.fightcrime.org/join. If you have any additional questions, please visit our website at www.fightcrime.org or contact me at 512/257-7399 or [email protected] fightcrime.org.