"Any economic study of a justice-related investment needs to use the right cost information in its calculations. The type of cost used makes a difference in the accuracy of a study’s findings, as well as its relevance for policymaking, budgeting, and practice. Vera’s Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit has published this guide to help technical users and general readers understand marginal cost—the amount of change in total cost when a unit of output changes." “This guide [in particular] instructs policy analysts how to calculate a particular kind of taxpayer costs called marginal costs for use in CBAs (cost-benefit analyses) of criminal justice programs and policies … A cost-benefit analysis aims to measure the net benefit to society, but this guide covers only costs to taxpayers and not societal costs of crime, which include fear of crime, avoidance costs, and emotional and physical harm to victims” (p. 4). Sections cover: introduction; what marginal costs are—types of government costs, short-run and long-run marginal costs, and taxpayer benefits versus taxpayer savings; how to calculate marginal costs—methods, and data collection; examples in the justice system—prisons and jails, probation and parole, courts, law enforcement, and programs; recommendations for analysts and justice agencies; resources for methods and data.
"Justice policymakers must make tough choices with limited resources. To help weigh their options, decision makers are increasingly turning to cost-benefit analysis (CBA), an economic tool that compares the costs of programs or policies with the benefits they deliver. This emerging demand for justice CBA means that many researchers are being called upon to conduct these studies for the first time and are looking for resources to help them get started. A common misconception is that you can perform CBA by inputting data into a common set of formulas. In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all template. Each analysis must be tailored to the investment being studied. There is, however, a common CBA methodology, or series of steps, you must follow to produce cost-benefit results. The purpose of this toolkit is to guide justice analysts through these steps. It is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of CBA methods" (p. 4). Sections cover: introduction; overview of cost-benefit analysis; before you get started; Step 1: Identify the investment’s potential impacts; Step 2: Quantify the investment’s impacts; Step 3: Determine marginal costs; Step 4: Calculate costs, benefits, and net present value; Step 5: Test the assumptions; Step 6: Report the results; and using CBA to inform policy and practice.
Those looking to increase the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18 will find this report useful in getting their shareholders on board with the change. The North Carolina Youth Accountability Planning Task Force was tasked with “implementing a plan to transfer 16- and 17-year-olds who commit misdemeanor and low-level, non-violent felony offenses to the juvenile system, while keeping 16- and 17-year-olds who commit serious violent felonies in the adult criminal justice system” (p. iii). These sections come after an executive summary: background; cost-benefit methodology; summary of the cost-benefit analysis; costs—law enforcement, courts, juvenile justice operations costs, and juvenile justice capital costs; benefits—criminal justice, victims, and youth; and conclusion. It was determined that the change in age will result in net benefits of $52.3 million a year.
This report empirically shows the benefits that can happen if a state reforms its excessively punitive drug control laws. "In 2009, the latest in a series of reforms essentially dismantled New York State’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of a range of felony drug charges and increasing eligibility for diversion to treatment … [The] drug law reform, as it functioned in the city soon after the laws were passed, led to a 35 percent rise in the rate of diversion of eligible defendants to treatment. Although the use of diversion varied significantly among the city’s five boroughs, it was associated with reduced recidivism rates, and cut racial disparities in half." Sections of this report include: introduction; expanding access to treatment; differences in diversion within the city; beyond diversion—broader consequences of drug law reform; narrowing racial differences; improving public safety; the cost of drug law reform; and conclusion and recommendations.
"Although jails are the “front door” to mass incarceration, there is not enough data for justice system stakeholders and others to understand how their jail is being used and how it compares with others. To address this issue, Vera researchers developed a data tool that includes the jail population and jail incarceration rate for every U.S. county that uses a local jail … The data revealed that, since 1970, the number of people held in jail has increased from 157,000 to 690,000 in 2014—a more than four-fold increase nationwide, with growth rates highest in the smallest counties. This data also reveals wide variation in incarceration rates and racial disparities among jurisdictions of similar size and thus underlines an essential point: The number of people in jail is largely the result of choices made by policymakers and others in the justice system. The Incarceration Trends tool provides any jurisdiction with the appetite for change the opportunity to better understand its history of jail use and measure its progress toward decarceration" (website). This website provides access to the Incarceration Trend tool for jails, summary, full report, a video tour of the tool with Chris Henrichson, and data and methods. Sections comprising the full report include: introduction; the expanding footprint of local incarceration—a snapshot of the findings—decades of growth, and growth's disparate impacts; understanding growth and disparities; using the Incarnation Trends tool; and conclusion. The Incarceration Trends tool is interactive and illustrates data per 100,000 county residents for: jail incarceration rate change (1970 to 2014); the 2014 jail incarceration rate; Black/African American jail incarceration rate; female jail incarceration rate; jail and prison incarceration rate for California and New York; what is trending in your county—exploring your counties jail data. One interesting finding is that the largest increase in the number of incarcerated individuals is occurring in mid-sized and small counties. Since 1970, local jail populations in mid-sized counties have grown 4.1 percent, small counties 6.9%, and large counties by 2.8%.
"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.