Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Long-Term "Savings" of Prevention

After I posted a story (An Ounce of Prevention) early this week on investments we are making with federal stimulus dollars, in employment, job and job skills training for high-risk youth, I was sent a fascinating article by a friend of mine in the criminal justice world.

It is a detailed analysis of the "monetary value" of "saving" a high-risk youth from becoming a career criminal. The full article can be accessed here.

Let me be clear. The most important reasons to do all we can to keep high-risk youth from becoming career criminals go way beyond dollars and cents. It is to allow our young people to lead fulfilling, productive lives--and to prevent criminal acts against fellow citizens in our community.

But when measured in dollars and cents, this article makes it clear just what a good investment effective prevention is. Every high risk youth we "save" from a criminal path through effective prevention and intervention saves between $3.2 million and $5.7 million for the lifetime costs the community would have incurred if that young person had become a career criminal. We see substantial savings when we also prevent heavy drug use ($1.15M-$1.3M) and drop-outs ($675k-$1M).

I ran for the Commission seat arguing that I wanted to hold those who commit crimes accountable while also addressing the root causes of crime, after my opponent proudly stated he was "not a root cause guy." Not only is prevention the right thing to do, but it turns out, it also is the most fiscally prudent approach.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that you're willing to focus on prevention -- prevention of crime, prevention of drug use, root causes, etc . . . . It's nearly impossible to measure how many people would have turned to drugs or crime without the preventative measures, so many leaders don't want to touch that sort of thing. Many leaders think only about short term results and what will make them look good quickly. I commend you for working towards making a real difference, even if we never get to measure the full results of your efforts. Thank you for your work on projects like this one.

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