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Joshua Rinaldi

"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.

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"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
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