By Brad Segall

CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) — Prosecutors from five southeastern Pennsylvania counties are calling on federal and state lawmakers to invest more money in early childhood education to reduce the costs of housing people in prisons down the road.

Outside the state prison in Chester today, the five district attorneys from Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware counties released a report that shows spending more money on pre-kindergarten for three- and four-year-olds could boost high school graduation rates and reduce the number of people behind bars.

The group says there is a need in the Philadelphia region and across Pennsylvania for high quality early childhood education.  They say only 17 percent of all three- and four-year-olds in Pennsylvania have access to publicly funded pre-K.

“We know from the research and we know from our experience that inmates in these facilities don’t land there overnight,” said Montgomery County DA Risa Ferman (at lectern in photo).  “It starts in the earliest years, the earliest years of their lives.”

Said Chester County district attorney Tom Hogan (third from left, with green necktie), “Every child deserves a chance.  It’s time to make the better choices now for the sake of our kids today and the sake of our community’s tomorrow.”

Pennsylvania spends more than $1.9 billion a year on corrections.  By investing in pre-K programs, prosecutors say, the future savings could be as much as $195 million per year.

The Obama administration wants to spend $75 billion over ten years — one tenth of what’s spent every year to incarcerate adults in prisons nationwide — which the report says could produce more than two million additional high school graduates nationwide.

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