By Austin Baird
The Associated Press
3:39 PM AKST, January 24, 2012
Alaska lawmakers, law enforcement officers and prosecutors from around the state gathered Tuesday for a two-day summit that aims to identify cost-effective ways to fight crime and improve public safety across Alaska.
The Senate Judiciary Committee opened the summit with a presentation from Annie Pennucci, a researcher for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. The institute is a nonpartisan group established by the Washington Legislature that studies the economic impacts of issues important to the state.
Pennucci told the committee that a summary of 66 studies of 3- and 4-year-old low-income children she helped conduct for the Washington Legislature showed a direct correlation between preschool for low-income children and lower crime rates.
Everything from high school graduation rates to out-of-home placement rates were also correlated, she said.
"It bends the curve significantly," said the committee's chair, Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage. French said early childhood education is not a cure-all but a part of an overall solution.
It's not clear whether any special initiatives or pieces of legislation will result from the summit. French has said it's important to bring together criminal justice experts to get a better sense of what is happening in the system and to then consider catalysts for change.