Panel members: Mr. Wine, Major General (Ret.) Davidson, Director Burchfield, and Mr. Gopal (L to R)

March 10, 2017
CONTACT: CHRIS BEAKEY cbeakey@councilforastrongamerica or (302) 448-0253

 Crime and inability to join the military or workforce presents crisis

(Louisville, KY)-  Today, four prominent Kentucky leaders spoke out about an alarming new report that reveals the majority of America’s young adults fail to meet criteria demonstrating they are citizen-ready members of society.  The Citizen-Readiness Index reveals the state of Kentucky received a grade of “D” based on the percentage of young adults in the state who are workforce-ready, law-abiding, and able to defend our nation, should they so choose.

The report was released by Kentucky members of the nonprofit Council for a Strong America at the American Revolution National Headquarters, in a panel discussion moderated by Major General (Ret.) Robert Silverthorn, U.S. Army.  General Silverthorn was joined by Major General (Ret.) Michael Davidson, U.S. Army, a member of Mission: Readiness; Thomas Wine, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the 30th Judicial Circuit, a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids; Ankur Gopal, CEO of Interapt, a member of ReadyNation; and Marcus Burchfield, Director of Missions at New River McCreary County Baptist Association, a member of Shepherding the Next Generation.

Across the country, more than three-fourths of states earned a grade of C or worse based on the percentage of prepared young adults, Kentucky among them. The Citizen-Readiness Index for Kentucky shows:

  • 15% of young people between the ages of 16-24 is unemployed and not in school
  • Nearly three-quarters of 17-24-year-olds in the state cannot qualify for military service due to problems with obesity, education, drug abuse or crime
  • Kentucky has an arrest rate of 11 arrests per 100 young adults

The panel discussed, in depth, the three factors that affect citizen-readiness.  One was the impact of childhood abuse and neglect on future criminal behavior. Research has shown that approximately half of all adolescents who have been arrested for delinquency in one study had experienced some form of abuse or neglect during childhood.

Another key factor the panel weighed in on was the importance of providing access to high- quality early education. Exposure to such programs reduces the chances a child will be held back in school, drop out, and become involved in crime. The numbers bear this out; across the nation, 7 out of 10 prisoners do not have a high school diploma.

National security was also a focus for the panelists, who discussed the current shortage of young Americans eligible to serve in the armed forces. Obesity, criminal records, and insufficient education are just some of the troubling factors keeping young people from qualifying for military service.

The panel recommended three ways to address the Citizen-Readiness indicators:

  • STRONG FAMILIES, must be supported through Congressional reauthorization of the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. This service enables at-risk parents to receive short-term coaching from a nurse or trained professional on how to provide their children with a safe and healthy start in life.  MIECHV has broad bipartisan support at the federal and state levels, As Majority Leader, Kentucky’s own Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) is in a unique position to ensure this program continues.  We urge him to prioritize reauthorizing the MIECHV program to ensure families don’t lose these critical services.

“Voluntary home visiting readies children from the starting blocks, giving their parents the tools they need to provide stability and success,” said Marcus Burchfield, Director of Missions at New River McCreary County Baptist Association.  “When we start early with families, we lay the foundation for a lifetime of success for the child, and everyone wins.”

  • QUALITY EARLY EDUCATION, must be maintained through reauthorizing and improving the Head Start program and continued support of Preschool Development Grants, which allow states to create, grow, and improve their early learning programs.

“If there is a chance to get ahead of crime and prevent it, or have it develop and impact the community, I am going to choose to prevent crime every time.”  Thomas Wine, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the 30th Judicial Circuit said,  “The point is simple—quality early education improves public safety.”

“It’s critical that businesses remain competitive and productive,” said Ankur Gopal, CEO of Interapt.  “We do that by having a skilled workforce, and we keep that pipeline flowing by starting early with kids to ensure that critical thinking skills are built in the earliest years of life through quality early learning.”

  • HEALTHIER SCHOOLS, must be supported by upholding progress made on aligning school meals with the latest nutrition science and restoring physical education in public schools across the nation.

“We need to know when a soldier raises his weapon on the field that he is healthy and fit and able to handle the rigour of battle.” said Major General (Ret.) Michael Davidson, U.S. Army.  “ When you instill lifelong healthy habits through everyday influences on a child’s life, like school, you make sure they value nutrition and physical activity, and that has a huge impact on their total well-being.”

The “Citizen-Readiness Index” was prepared by Council for a Strong America, a national, bipartisan, nonprofit uniting organizations comprised of five pillars of society that promotes solutions to the challenges preventing Americans from being citizen-ready.  The organization’s more than 9,000 members are law enforcement leaders, retired admirals and generals, business executives, pastors, and prominent coaches and athletes.