To the Editor:
I recently joined a dozen Illinois police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors on a trip to the state capitol. We met with the governor and top legislative leaders, seeking their help with our public-safety work.
We didn’t request more squad cars, or ask for more space to lock up criminals.
Instead, we asked that policymakers settle our state budget problems in a way that shores up some of Illinois’ most important weapons for fighting crime: proven investments in the well-being of children and youth.
Redeploy Illinois provides alternatives to prison for juvenile offenders that are cheaper and can cut recidivism in half.
After-school programs such as Teen REACH help keep troubled youth off the streets during “prime time for juvenile crime,” and help increase graduation rates. Home-visiting services, offering “coaching” to new parents of at-risk babies and toddlers, are shown to curb the rates of child abuse and neglect.
Yet the state’s budget impasse has dealt these and similar programs a heavy blow, forcing many to cut back or close entirely. Even state-supported preschool – in which Illinois had begun investing again, after years of harmful cuts – is suffering enormously from long delays in payments to pre-K providers.
Such shortsighted cuts, delays and stagnation hurt children and families throughout our state. But they also significantly set back efforts at reducing crime and violence. So let’s drop the finger-pointing and “blame games.” Let’s come together and figure this out, for the good of our kids and our communities.
Chief Russell B. Laine
Fox Lake Police Department