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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 11, 2013 at 7:15 AM

Investing in early learning will reduce behavioral problems and lower crime

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates answers a question during an interview with the Associated Press in Seattle Nov. 5. Gates gave the U.S. public school system a C-plus. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates answers a question during an interview with the Associated Press in Seattle Nov. 5. Gates gave the U.S. public school system a C-plus. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Crime prevention happens in the first five years of a person’s life

I commend The Times for highlighting the importance of early learning and home-visiting programs [“Invest in early childhood learning,” Editorial, Nov. 7].

As noted in the editorial, neuroscience has documented the dramatic development of a child’s brain in the first three years of life and that development determines much of what happens in subsequent years. Every day, law enforcement deals with the consequence of failing to invest in our youngest children. Jails, prisons and juvenile detention facilities are filled with individuals with mental-health, substance abuse and anger-management issues (and no high-school diploma).

The Times mentions juvenile justice as one place we can save money if we invest in early learning. But the savings go far beyond juvenile justice. Washington spends $842 million a year to incarcerate nearly 17,000 adult criminals. Research shows that high-quality early learning programs lead to fewer behavioral problems, improved school readiness, reduced special education, fewer high-school dropouts and ultimately lower rates of crime and incarceration.

We will never arrest and incarcerate our way out of crime. Crime prevention happens in the first five years of a person’s life. If we invest there, we will not only save dollars, we will save lives as well.

Paul D. Ayers, chief of police, Issaquah

Comments | More in Education | Topics: early learning

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