DiNapoli: Investments in At-Risk Children Can Save Taxpayers Millions
Programs focusing on at-risk children have proven effective at reducing the rates of juvenile violence and incarceration, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“Instead of waiting until a child becomes a delinquent, New Yorkers will be best served by addressing problems at the start,” DiNapoli said. “Keeping just one child out of the juvenile justice system saves our state $210,000 a year and even greater costs to victims and communities. Investing in children early is not only the right thing to do, but it also protects taxpayer dollars.”
DiNapoli’s report weighs the personal and economic benefits of early intervention programs and compares them with current initiatives that focus on children only after they’ve entered the correctional system. The study noted it costs an estimated $210,000 per person, or a total of $350 million annually, for incarceration. Juvenile delinquents often become repeat offenders and child abuse and neglect increase future criminal behavior by 29 percent.
These enormous costs could potentially be prevented by intervening early. Strategies found to be most effective at mitigating risk factors include pre-kindergarten programs, drug and alcohol treatment programs for pregnant women, and programs to assist mentally ill parents.
“Waiting for criminal activity to occur and responding accordingly is an expensive strategy that New Yorkers cannot afford,” said William Kilfoil, Port Washington Chief of Police and Immediate Past President of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. “It simply does not work. As Police Chiefs, we all know that prevention is cost effective and is proven to save taxpayer dollars. With today’s tight budgets, we cannot overlook this fact.”
The report encourages better coordination among state agencies and adopting an evidence-based approach to investing in at-risk children in their early years. It also advises that funding decisions be based on program effectiveness so the limited funds available in today’s economic climate could provide the most benefit for at-risk youth and state taxpayers.
To view DiNapoli’s report, visit here.