BLOG: Corrections Secretary Wetzel Pushes Pre-K to Slow Prison Growth (ROUND-UP)

By: J.J. Abbott, Deputy Press Secretary

February 29, 2016

Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel has been visiting prisons across Pennsylvania to stress the importance of investing in early childhood education. He’s been joined by Secretary of Human Services Ted Dallas, and representatives of law enforcement, the General Assembly, and criminal justice and community organizations.

Wetzel has touted Governor Wolf’s historic investment – $60 million or a 30.5 percent increase – in early childhood education, which is included in his 2016-2017 budget proposal. This funding increase builds upon the proposed $60 million investment in 2015-16 to enroll about 14,000 children in Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Program. Studies show that children who participate in high-quality pre-kindergarten perform better in school, graduate at higher rates and earn more throughout their working lives. And in some studies, children without pre-k were 70 percent more likely to be arrest for a violent crime by age 18.

Read more in the Secretary’s blog post, “Invest in Pre-K, Not Prisons” and see the video from last Friday’s event at SCI Muncy with Secretary Dallas here.

Sunbury Daily Item: State corrections secretary stresses importance of early childhood education

“More than 81,000 Pennsylvania children have at least one parent incarcerated in a state correctional facility and those numbers need to drop quickly, said John Wetzel, secretary of the state Department of Corrections. Wetzel on Friday discussed the importance of his department being able to provide as much information about early childhood education as possible to the 50,000 parents separated from their children. Pennsylvania spends more than $90 million on early childhood education. … The additional funding Gov. Tom Wolf seeks will translate into 14,000 additional children receiving pre-kindergarten services, Wetzel said.”

WESA: PA Corrections Secretary Pushes Education Funding To Prevent Incarceration

“Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel is calling for service providers to back Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed funding of early education. Wetzel weighed in, because of the link between education and incarceration. He said a child reading at grade level before the third grade is less likely to drop out of school later on; and a high school dropout is more likely to be incarcerated. He stressed the importance of investing in children, before they enter the criminal justice system, to a group of activists gathered at the State Correctional Institution in Pittsburgh. He asked them to tell elected officials to spend money on education before it has to be used in the department of corrections.”

PennLive: Prison setting used to advocate for more money for early childhood education programs

“The governor’s proposal to provide an additional $60 million for pre-kindergarten education programs got support from inside the all-female state prison at Muncy. Corrections Secretary John Wetzel , Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas and others Friday during a news conference said giving children a meaningful education at a young age might keep them out of prison as adults and provide them the opportunity to become a lawyer or doctor. Half of the inmates in state prisons don’t have a high school diploma when they arrive at the prison, he said. ‘We have an opportunity when we fund programs that have quantifiable outcomes to change the trajectory in the lives of children,’ Wetzel said.”

WNEP: State Hopeful Education Can Help End Cycle Behind Bars

“‘What if we could spend money way before anybody comes in here,’ said Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. ‘This isn’t about keeping kids out of prison, which will happen. This is about giving kids the opportunity to become doctors and lawyers.’”

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