SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the House Early Childhood Committee met jointly with the House Criminal Justice Reform Committee to discuss ways in which the two topics intersect, delivering better outcomes for young people and improving safety in the state.
“Experiences in the earliest months and years set the foundation for all that follows,” said Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL - Saint Paul). “Research confirms that children who receive high-quality early care and learning are more likely to succeed in school, to graduate, and to develop social-emotional and behavioral skills that will help them to thrive in our society. Robust investments in early childhood will help reduce crime and improve safety in our communities, as well as improving outcomes for the next generation of Minnesotans.”
The Early Childhood Committee has previously received considerable testimony that Minnesota’s system of child care and early learning is unaffordable for families, while paying poverty wages to teachers, preventing thousands of vulnerable young children from receiving the high-quality early experiences that they need.
“The research is clear: investing in early childhood is a much better use of our state’s resources than needing to increase funding for the criminal justice system later on. Investing in kids is crime prevention at its core, truly strengthening public safety,’ said Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL - Saint Paul), “This session, as we work to address increased crime in our communities, we all need to recognize how public safety is a much broader discussion than police, courts, or incarceration. We can’t solve big problems operating in our own silos at the Capitol. Education, youth development, mental health, and early interventions are all ways in which we can ensure Minnesotans can be safe and successful.”
Rep. Pinto is chief author of legislation to invest in family support and connection for children with incarcerated parents. It appropriates $280,000 to establish a family support unit within the Department of Corrections and $1.5 million to provide communications services for inmates to connect with family. Since a significant proportion of inmates in Minnesota are parents of young children, these investments would help foster positive connections between children and incarcerated parents. In addition to improving outcomes for children, these connections promote rehabilitation and reduce recidivism.
Dr. Megan Gunnar from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Child Development shared a presentation with lawmakers about early childhood experiences, brain architecture, and how they’re both linked to public safety. Andres Dukes from the Northside Achievement Zone discussed adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and brain development. Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie and Thief River Falls Police Chief Marissa Adam also shared their support for the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids initiative, seeking to invest in early childhood programming, keeping kids engaged and encouraging them to develop positive relationships.