Criminal justice agencies often seek technological solutions to address safety issues and improve efficiency. What is the best way to inform public safety technology (PST) investments? Is cost-benefit analysis (CBA) a useful tool? The Vera Institute of Justice’s Cost-Benefit Knowledge Bank for Criminal Justice (CBKB) brought together a group of policymakers and practitioners to discuss the role of CBA in decisions about PSTs.
Proposals are due Friday, October 17, 2014. Submissions may address the link between theory and practice, the methods used to estimate particular types of costs or benefits, the application of BCA to specific case studies, and the role of BCA in decision making.
Nationwide, state correctional health care spending totaled $7.7 billion in 2011—an amount that comprises 20 percent of overall prison expenditures, according to a new report from the State Health Care Spending Project, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Inmate health care costs make up a larger share of state prison budgets than in 2001, but these expenses have leveled off since 2009, a trend that aligns with the recent nationwide deceleration of health care spending.
Cost-benefit analysis is increasingly being used to study law enforcement. The Washington State Institute of Public Policy, for instance, now calculates the return on investment of deploying an additional police officer as part of its “Consumer Reports-like list” of policy options. Previous CBKB blog posts have explored several issues and concerns related to the costs and benefits of policing.
CBKB is not only a clearinghouse for written materials. Since 2010, we have presented 10 webinars—many co-presented with researchers and practitioners in the field—as part of our work to broaden and deepen the use of cost-benefit analysis for justice policymaking.
Six of these webinars are targeted to the analysts who prepare CBAs.
A few years ago, a colleague asked me a pointed question about cost-benefit analysis: “Is it useful or a bunch of baloney?” (Actually, her words were a bit saltier.) We had worked together at the New York City Office of Management and Budget—and budget offices incubate a healthy dose of skepticism.
Tina Chiu, director of technical assistance at the Vera Institute of Justice, will be in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday, April 30, to talk about cost-benefit analysis and Vera’s technical assistance resources at the spring national meeting of the Smart Policing Initiative (SPI).
Law enforcement and research teams from the following cities will participate in the three-day conference: Chula Vista, California; East Palo Alto, California; Port St.
The CBKB reference database has more than 500 cost-benefit studies, articles, and papers that evaluate a variety of justice functions, initiatives, and programs. We recently added these six cost-benefit analyses (CBAs).
CBAs of correctional programs
Elizabeth Drake. Inventory of Evidence-Based and Research-Based Programs for Adult Corrections. Olympia, WA: Washington State Institute of Public Policy, 2013, http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/ReportFile/1542/Wsipp_Inventory-of-Evidence-Based-and-Research-Based-Programs-for-Adult-Corrections_Final-Report.pdf (accessed December 13, 2013).
Any number of investments can promote public safety, whether in law enforcement, corrections, community corrections—or even programs such as early childhood education. The critical question, though, is which choices produce the greatest benefits.
Increasingly, decision makers are turning to cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to help weigh their options. But justice-related cost-benefit studies can be complicated, technical, and hard to understand, making it easy for people to misinterpret their findings and overlook critical information that can aid their decisions.
As part of its Research for the Real World seminar series, the National Institute of Justice will host the event “Building Trust Inside and Out: The Challenge of Legitimacy Facing Police Leaders,” featuring Professor Dennis Rosenbaum, director of the Center for Research in Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The nongovernmental organization New Economy, in partnership with the UK government, recently released a database of more than 600 cost estimates. This unit cost database—available at the Centre for Social Impact Bonds—covers crime, education and skills, employment and economy, fire, health, housing, and social services. Most are national costs derived from government reports and academic studies.
Dr. Craig D. Uchida is the president of Justice & Security Strategies, Inc., where he oversees contracts and grants with cities, counties, criminal justice agencies, foundations, and foreign nations. He is also a member of the Law Enforcement Forecasting Group (LEFG), a program of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA.) Last year, LEFG asked Vera’s Cost-Benefit Knowledge Bank to develop the paper Putting a Value on Crime Analysts: Considerations for Law Enforcement Executives.
Dr. Craig D. Uchida is the president of Justice & Security Strategies, Inc., where he oversees contracts and grants with cities, counties, criminal justice agencies, foundations, and foreign nations. He is also a member of the Law Enforcement Forecasting Group (LEFG), a program of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). Last year, LEFG asked CBKB to develop the paper Putting a Value on Crime Analysts: Considerations for Law Enforcement Executives.
The Adult Drug Court Research-to-Practice Initiative (R2P)—a project of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the Justice Programs Office of the School of Public Affairs at American University—recently conducted the webinar “Drug Court Cost-Efficiency Analysis: Methods and Findings.”
The online panel discussion, moderated by Fred L. Cheesman II, principal court research consultant at NCSC, covers how to conduct drug court cost-efficiency analysis—including guidance on marginal costs, transactional costs, and monetizing drug-court outcomes—as well as what the current cost-effectiveness research tells us about adult drug courts.
Like other government agencies, police departments are under great pressure to get the biggest return possible when investing taxpayers’ dollars on justice programs and policies. Leaders of the Law Enforcement Forecasting Group of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance asked staff from CBKB to develop this document, to help police departments address questions about spending on crime analysts—and about justifying that spending.
Investing in justice-system programs and policies involves allocating resources that would otherwise be put to some alternative use. So distinguishing the cost of an initiative or intervention from “business as usual” is essential when calculating program costs for a cost-benefit analysis.
Our latest publication, Advancing the Quality of Cost-Benefit Analysis for Justice Programs, has a section about program costs.
Last month, the Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA) hosted the webinar “A State Perspective on Implementing Results First.” The webinar highlighted the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative’s work in implementing an innovative cost-benefit analysis (CBA) approach that helps jurisdictions invest in effective criminal justice policies and programs.
Our new white paper, Advancing the Quality of Cost-Benefit Analysis for Justice Programs, recommends a few ways to make cost-benefit studies clearer and more accessible. To paraphrase the Golden Rule, you should provide as much documentation for others as you would want them to provide you:
- Be explicit about which costs and benefits the analysis includes.
Last week we announced the release of a new CBKB white paper, Advancing the Quality of Cost-Benefit Analysis for Justice Programs. Analysts, researchers, analysts, and criminologists will find useful information about cost-benefit analysis (CBA) methods, evaluation techniques, and justice-specific applications of this technique.
Even if you don’t plan to dive into the details, take a look at these six principles that serve as the paper’s foundation:
- Cost-benefit analysis is a decision tool, not a decision rule.
The demand for cost-benefit analyses (CBAs) of justice programs keeps growing, but the supply of high-quality studies has not kept pace. Analysts deal with a number of challenges, from acquiring good data to balancing the precision and accuracy of studies with their policy relevance.
CBKB’s new white paper, Advancing the Quality of Cost-Benefit Analysis for Justice Programs, was developed to help guide analysts through the methodological challenges of conducting justice-related CBAs, such as:
- Selecting perspectives to include in justice-related CBAs;
- Predicting and measuring the impacts of justice programs and policies;
- Monetizing (placing dollar values on) those initiatives;
- Dealing with uncertainty; and
- Making cost-benefit studies clearer and more accessible.