In a recent op-ed (Maine Voices, Jan. 12), Kevin Joyce (Cumberland County sheriff and president of the Maine Sheriffs Association) and Richard LaHaye (Searsport chief of police and president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association) make the argument that early childhood education will result in lower crime rates. As they put it: “It’s up to our state to put it in place and ensure these programs are available to Mainers – especially to the kids and families who benefit from them most.”

Although Joyce and LaHaye don’t say who would benefit from the programs most, a 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News op-ed by law professors Amy Wax and Larry Alexander spells out characteristics that might result in children who do not commit crimes: getting married before having children (and staying married for their sake), getting the education needed for honest employment, working hard at your job, being patriotic, neighborly and civic-minded and avoiding coarse language in public.

I infer that Joyce and LaHaye are writing about parents who did not follow the precepts laid out by Wax and Alexander: people who did not get married before having children, or who did not get the education they needed for gainful employment, or who did not work hard at their job, and so on.

It would follow that there are two ways to deter future crime: Either encourage people to gain the skills they need to be good parents before having children, or step in where the parents failed and provide the needed guidance. Joyce and LaHaye are obviously arguing for the second approach, but that is not necessarily the best option. Quite obviously, an approach based on preventing the problem should at least be on the table. As Ben Franklin wrote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

William Vaughan Jr.

Chebeague Island

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