Should West Virginia fund programs to educate children as young as 3 years old? Gov. Cecil Underwood thinks so, and has put $1.6 million in the upcoming year's budget to start the process. His bet is that money spent early on will save the state from paying welfare and/or prison costs later. We'd like to hear more before we endorse this, in particular whether the program will be mandatory and whether it will be statewide.
There's no doubt that juvenile crime is taking a bigger bite of the state treasury than anyone anticipated. The Public Defender Services budget, which has tripled in just 10 years to nearly $18 million, will be $9 million in the hole this year, in part because of the cost of trying an increasing number of young perpetrators.
To deter young criminals and rehabilitate them, state lawmakers have introduced bills that would remove prohibitions against making young suspects' names public and to create a residential school for them. The Regional Jail Authority is also asking lawmakers to clarify its right to build juvenile facilities.