Back to top

Cost analysis

"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.

A Guide to Calculating Cover

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

"Faced with the most crowded prison system in the nation and overwhelmed probation and parole systems, state leaders in Alabama pursued justice reinvestment. After extensive analyses identified key challenges in the state’s criminal justice system, policymakers developed a policy framework designed to reduce prison overcrowding and strengthen community-based supervision. Justice reinvestment legislation was enacted in May 2015 and is projected to avert $380 million in construction and operations cost by FY2021." Sections of this brief include: overview; summary of justice reinvestment process—challenge, findings, and solutions; summary of SB 67 policies to strengthen community-based supervision and to reduce recidivism, prioritize prison space for violent and dangerous offenders, and ensure supervision for everyone upon release from prison, and expand victim notification; looking ahead; sustainability policies; and "Projected Impact of SB 67 on Alabama's Prison population" chart.

Alabama’s Justice Reinvestment Approach cover

This analysis covers supervision compliance outcomes of quick dips, two or three day periods of jail confinement in response to probation non-compliance. The purpose of quick dips, results, and implication are presented. Offenders who received quick dips were more likely to have positive supervision outcomes, less revocations in the follow-up period, and less absconding than the comparison group. Overall, quick dips are an effective quick and certain response to offender non-compliance.

Analysis Summary Short Term Cover

“During the past six years, Texas overhauled its juvenile corrections system, enacting a series of reforms that led to a significant reduction in the state-level committed population and yielded millions of dollars in cost savings while protecting public safety” (p. 1). Sections of this brief cover: problem; reforms—authorizing legislation, redirected resources, incentive funding, standardized tools, and streamlines system; and impact—commitments down, costs reduced $50 million per year, and public safety maintained.

Bending the Curve: Juvenile Corrections Reform in Texas cover

“Interest in using cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to help in criminal justice policymaking and planning has grown in recent years as state and local budgets have become increasingly strained. Most jurisdictions, however, have not been able to create a sustained capacity to produce and use CBA in decision making and budgeting. The Vera Institute of Justice organized a roundtable discussion to examine what factors might help jurisdictions build lasting capacity to use and perform CBA … The discussion highlighted the need for expertise in conducting cost-benefit studies. It also highlighted the need for trusted, credible organizations that can house this expertise. And participants talked about structures and processes that would help bring cost-benefit information to policymakers and integrate CBA as part of decision making” (p. 1). Topics covered include: organizations that can house CBA capacity—credibility, newly established organizations, location, and administration and funding (or covering your costs); staffing—advertising positions and searching for staff, characteristics of good staff, and other ways to staff; and making CBA part of the process—the importance of integrating CBA, CBA and the budgeting barrier, forecasts and feedback, putting your money where your mouth is, and other activities.

Building Cost Benefit Analysis Cover

Topics discussed include: Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice (DACJJ) base budget; community corrections base budget; average daily costs; what community corrections is; probation, parole, and post-release defined; purpose of post-release supervision (PRS); why JRA expanded PRS; Parole and Post-Release Supervision Commission; Judicial Service Coordinators; probation and parole officers; caseload averages; the changing role of probation officers; risk-needs assessment components; supervision levels; electronic monitoring; community supervision programs; Treatment for Effective Community Supervision (TECS); reinvestment; Confinement in Response to Violation (CRV) Centers; and results for prison readmission by type, for probation revocation rate, and for "quick dips" (2-3 day confinement).

Community Corrections and the Justice Reinvestment Act 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

Results of a cost-benefit analysis of correctional industries programs are provided. Sections of this report are: research methods; research results; benefits and costs; and conclusion. "We find that correctional industries programs for adult offenders in prison can achieve a statistically significant reduction in recidivism rates, and that a reasonably priced program generates about $6.70 in benefits per dollar of cost (p. 2)."

Correctional Industries Programs for Adult Offenders in Prison Cover

"This Training Resource Package recommends several cost-effective methods of providing in-service training for existing staff (p.3)." Sections of this document include: theme--if it meets all the requirements of "Defendable Training," it is training; executive summary; introduction; needs; training delivery options--in-service field training, shift overlap training delivery sessions, experiential training, shift scenario reviews, staff independent studies programs, training presentations during staff meetings, and other in-service training methods (e.g., correspondence courses, ride-alongs, videos, e-learning, satellite downlink, training consortium, and classroom training); and summary.

Cost Effective In-Service Training Alternatives for Small Jails Cover

Pages

Subscribe to Cost analysis