ST. JOHNS (WILX)-- Could early education be the newest tool in preventing crime? Local sheriffs seem to think so.
Ingham and Clinton county released a report Wednesday showing preschool programs could be a big factor in keeping Michigan's prison population down.
There's currently more than 43,000 adults incarcerated in Michigan's jails and prisons. That adds up to more than $2 billion dollars spent every year on prisoners in the state.
"I know from personal experience we can't prosecute or arrest our way out of this situation. It's just not going to happen," said Clinton County Sheriff Wayne Kangas.
According to Sheriff Kangas and Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth, early education is the key. Right now only 4% of Michigan prisoners under the age of twenty have a high school diploma.
"At risk kids, they're the ones we end up getting in the long run. We should strive to put ourselves out of business, and that's why we are here today," said Sheriff Wriggelsworth.
They report that investing in more high quality preschools and early childhood development programs would reduce the number of people incarcerated in Michigan by more than 4,000 every year. That big of a reduction would save the state more than $206 million dollars every year.
"There's not going to be instant rewards to this. This is a long term process, but it has to begin somewhere," said Sheriff Kangas.
Their solution is a state and federal partnership that would give $67 million dollars to Michigan per year, for the next ten years. The money would have to be strictly be used towards pre-k and early childhood development programs. The big difference between this partnership and Head-Start, is that the State would have the power to decide where the money goes, not the federal government.
According to Kathy Pelleran, Sate Director of Fight Crime:Invest in Kids, the money for the partnership would come from a tobacco tax increase. It will be introduced to the US Senate and House later on this year.
This report presented by Sheriff Kangas and Sheriff Wriggelsworth was based on a study done years ago at Perry Preschool in Ypsilanti. It followed those kids for decades. They were 46% less likely to end up in jail or prison by the age of 40.