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Statistics - Statistics - Criminal Justice System Costs

Do you need a quick introduction to cost-benefit (CBA) analysis? Then this white paper is for you. “Cost-benefit analysis is an economic assessment tool that compares the costs and benefits of policies and programs for the time they produce their impacts. The hallmark of CBA is that costs and benefits are both expressed in monetary terms so that they can be directly compared. CBA supplies policymakers with information to weigh the pros and cons of alternative investments and enables them to identify options that are cost-effective and will have the greatest net social benefit. Because benefits are always expressed in dollar terms, CBA also enables decision makers to compare policies and programs that have different purposes and outcomes. Although CBA is a well-established economic method, it has not been widely used in criminal justice … This report offers guidance on important conceptual and practical issues surrounding the use of CBA to inform justice policymaking” (p. 1). Five sections are contained in this publication: perspectives of taxpayers, crime victims, offenders, the rest of society, and whose perspectives to include in a CBA; the evaluation component of CBA—predicting or measuring program impacts (i.e., non-experimental, experimental, quasi-experimental designs, and meta-analysis); valuing the costs and impacts of justice policies and programs; dealing with uncertainty in impacts—sensitivity, partial sensitivity, best-case and worse-cast, break-even, and Monte Carlo analyses; and making CBAs clearer and more accessible—general recommendations, documentation, and reporting results.

Advancing the Quality Cover

"A longstanding and growing body of research shows that pre-trial detention and post-adjudication incarceration for youth can have extremely negative ramifications for the youth’s ability to get back on the right track. Youth prisons and detention facilities have been shown to be dangerous, ineffective, and unnecessary. Community-based supervision programs for youth both cost less than confinement and provide increased rehabilitative benefits for youth. This brief tip sheet will describe a few fundamental characteristics of community-based supervision programs and will summarize their average costs" (p. 1). Sections of this publication include: introduction to community-based supervision programs for youth; benefits of these programs; selected key components for youth supervised programs; six program examples; cost of youth incarceration; cost of community-based supervision programs—if only 50% of the juveniles detained during 2011 in the U.S. were supervised in the community for nine months, almost 50% of costs (or $333,000) would have been saved; and conclusion.

› Community-Based Supervision: Increased Public Safety, Decreased Expenditures Cover

"States will spend $40 billion to incarcerate and supervise offenders in fiscal year (FY) 2014, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ "State Budget Actions: FY 2013 & 2014." This is a modest 2.5 percent increase over FY 2013 costs, with corrections a shrinking portion of overall state spending. In a growing number of states, legislatures have enacted policy shifts that make more effective use of corrections dollars but that also remain attentive to public safety.

This report examines corrections budget trends, cost-conserving changes to sentencing and corrections policies, actions taken to operate prisons more efficiently, and federal initiatives that provide support and assistance to states."

"Under the landmark 1976 Estelle v. Gamble decision, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that prisoners have a constitutional right to adequate medical attention and concluded that the Eighth Amendment is violated when corrections officials display “deliberate indifference” to an inmate’s medical needs. The manner in which states manage prison health care services that meet these legal requirements affects not only inmates’ health, but also the public’s health and safety and taxpayers’ total corrections bill. Effectively treating inmates’ physical and mental illnesses, including substance use disorders, improves their well-being and can reduce the likelihood that they will commit new crimes or violate probation once released" (p. 1). Sections included in this report are: overview; spending trends; distribution of spending; spending drivers; cost-containment strategies; and conclusion. Also provided are the following report charts: Total Prison Health Care Spending Grew; Peaked in 34 States Before 2011; Components of Prison Health Care Spending; State and Federal Prisoners 55 and Older Increased by 204%; Share of Older Inmates in State Prisons Varied; Per-inmate Spending Higher in States with Older Inmate Populations. Correctional health care spending rose 13%. Due to the decrease in prison populations, per-inmate costs increased 10%. The statewide growth in the elderly inmate population caused those states with more senior inmates (per total inmate population) to have higher per-inmate costs.

State Prison Health Care Spending: An Examination cover

"Thirty-three U.S. states and jurisdictions spend $100,000 or more annually to incarcerate a young person, and continue to generate outcomes that result in even greater costs … [this report] provides estimates of the overall costs resulting from the negative outcomes associated with incarceration. The report finds that these long-term consequences of incarcerating young people could cost taxpayers $8 billion to $21 billion each year." This report is divided into eight parts: the costs we bear for overreliance on youth confinement—progress in reducing confinement, without compromising public safety; the tip of the iceberg—what taxpayers pay too incarcerate youth—cost in context and whether the price is too high; estimating the total long-term costs of youth confinement; reoffending and recidivism—studies used to estimate the impact of youth confinement on recidivism, and estimating the costs of youth confinement on recidivism; education, employment, and wages—studies used to estimate the impact of youth confinement on educational attainment; victimization of youth—estimating the impact of youth confinement on facility-based sexual assault, and estimating the cost of impact of sexual assaults on confined youth; the final tally and what we potentially save when we make better choices—a modest silver lining—what the youth deincarceration trend means for the collateral costs; and recommendations.

› Sticker Shock: Calculating the Full Price Tag for Youth Incarceration Cover

"This study estimates the annual economic burden of incarceration in the United States. While prior research has estimated the cost of crime, no study has calculated the cost of incarceration. The $80 billion spent annually on corrections is frequently cited as the cost of incarceration, but this figure considerably underestimates the true cost of incarceration by ignoring important social costs. These include costs to incarcerated persons, families, children, and communities. This study draws on a burgeoning area of scholarship to assign monetary values to twenty-three different costs, which yield an aggregate burden of one trillion dollars. This approaches 6% of gross domestic product and dwarfs the amount spent on corrections. For every dollar in corrections costs, incarceration generates an additional ten dollars in social costs. More than half of the costs are borne by families, children, and community members who have committed no crime. Even if one were to exclude the cost of jail, the aggregate burden of incarceration would still exceed $500 billion annually."

"Jails are far more expensive than previously understood, as significant jail expenditures—such as employee salaries and benefits, health care and education programs for incarcerated people, and general administration—are paid for by county or municipal general funds, and are not reflected in jail budgets. Drawing on surveys from 35 jail jurisdictions from 18 states, this report determined that even the jurisdictions themselves had difficulty pinning down the total cost of their local jail or jail system. It also highlights how the surest way to safely cut costs is to reduce the number of people who enter and stay in jails. In doing so, jurisdictions will be able to save resources and make the investments necessary to address the health and social service needs of their communities, which have for too long landed at the doorstep of their jails." Sections contained in this report include: introduction; methods—measuring the price of jail; results—counting all the costs and the actual price of jails; a tale of two counties—inmate population drive costs; measuring a jail's cost savings; and conclusion. An appendix provides a summary of the survey's results.

The Price of Jails Cover

"From the early 1970s into the new millennium, the U.S. prison population experienced unprecedented growth, which had a direct influence on state budgets. In recent years, however, lawmakers in nearly every state and from across the political spectrum have enacted new laws to reduce prison populations and spending. This report, which builds upon the information found in Vera’s 2012 publication The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers, found that 13 states were successful in reducing both population and spending. However, no single reason explains a rise or fall in spending; instead, a multitude of factors push and pull expenditures in different directions. Read the report and explore our interactive data visualization below to learn more."

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