Flying under the radar of the Supreme Court’s recent groundbreaking opinions, the Court came down firmly on the side of analyzing costs and benefits this summer. In Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, the Court found that vague and general statutory language can bind federal agencies to consider the relationship between benefits and costs before deciding whether to regulate.
This summer, I’ve been updating our CBA library which now includes more than 600 articles. Since the launch of the website in 2011, our mission has been to further understand and examine the use of cost-benefit analysis within the field of criminal justice. But CBA has also been used extensively to study juvenile justice.
We’ve recently made a few changes to CBKB to make it easier to find the materials the team has developed over the past several years. This project began in 2010, and the website debuted in 2011, to broaden and deepen the understanding and use of cost-benefit analysis in criminal justice. Although the BJA-sponsored CBKB project concluded last year, the Vera Institute of Justice continues to update the project website in recognition of the field’s continuing interest in CBA.
The Vera Institute’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections (CSC), which maintains CBKB, is seeking a Policy Analyst who will specialize in cost- and cost-benefit analysis at the New York office. Candidates should share CSC’s passion for social justice and interest in a diverse, collegial, and high-energy work place.
The Policy Analyst will work closely with the director of cost-benefit analysis to collect justice system cost data, conduct cost-benefit analyses, prepare policy reports, and develop new projects.
Measuring the benefits of a justice policy can be challenging because concerns that motivate justice system reforms—fairness, equality, human dignity—have no generally accepted dollar values.
A recent symposium in the California Law Review directly addresses this issue by looking at break-even analysis as a tool for handling situations in which hard-to-measure values may play a decisive role.
Police-worn body cameras—that monitor police-civilian interactions—are generating increased attention around the country. But the public’s investment in any public safety technology presents both benefits and costs. The principal benefit of body cameras is that they document police-civilian interactions—particularly interactions when officers use force—thereby providing a record of the engagement. There are other benefits as well: The presence of cameras could incentivize safer police-civilian interactions and also deter knowingly false reports of police misconduct.
Jails leverage the resources of other government agencies and these resources add to a county’s financial commitment to the jail, sometimes significantly, according to Vera Institute of Justice’s new report The Price of Jails: Measuring the Taxpayer Cost of Local Incarceration.
This report, similar to The Price of Prisons that investigated state correctional costs, examines all of the costs of jails including those outside the jail budget that are funded by other county departments.
Decision Drivers in the Public Sector, the American Association for Budget and Program Analysis (AABPA) Spring 2015 Symposium, will be held at the George Washington University from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on June 22, 2015.
The symposium will feature a panel on “The Challenges of Data-Driven, Evidence-Based Decisions in Government” to address how agencies can harness “existing data and research evidence to solve problems and serve the American public.”
Registration costs $75 for AABPA members and $125 for non-members.
Applications for Training in Cost-Effectiveness and Benefit-Cost Methods for Educational Evaluators Due by May 15, 2015
The Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Columbia Teachers College is hosting a series of free training sessions this summer, beginning on August 24 and running through August 28, 2015, on methods in cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis for educational interventions.
Sessions are geared for PhDs currently conducting educational research.
States continue to enact laws designed to use and build evidence on their policy priorities. A recent report from the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative reviews efforts from 2004 to 2014, and finds that states have implemented several types of approaches:
- Requiring agencies to categorize programs by their degree of supporting evidence (Washington and Mississippi);
- Incentivizing, requiring, or dedicating funding to evidence-based and research-based programs (Wisconsin, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Kentucky, Oregon, and Tennessee); and
- Curtailing funding to ineffective program models (Missouri and Ohio).
The United Kingdom (UK), as part of an effort to expand the use of evidence in policymaking, has produced a number of resources to aid government officials and local justice service providers.
- The UK Treasury Green Book: Provides a high-level overview of policy evaluation, geared for government officials. The Green Book addresses the steps of conducting a cost-benefit analysis and provides a uniform framework for UK policy makers.
Call for Paper and Panel Proposals on Budgeting and Financial Management in Government, Due by April 10, 2015
The Association for Budgeting and Financial Management (ABFM) is accepting submissions for panel and paper proposals for the annual ABFM Conference, to be held October 1–3, 2015 in Washington, DC. ABFM encourages practitioners and academics to submit proposals on domestic, international, or comparative topics in public finance and budgeting. Proposals are due by April 10, 2015.
A broad movement to increase the use of evidence in justice policymaking is stirring in the United States, with action at the state and national levels. States are currently at the forefront of this movement, with a handful regularly incorporating cost-benefit analyses (CBAs) into legislative decisions.
But governments in the United States are not alone—in particular, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada have also begun adopting CBA and other evidence-based approaches to inform justice policy decisions.
The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis (SBCA) will offer a series of six professional development workshops on March 18, 2015, prior to its 2015 Annual Conference and Meeting. The following workshops are organized by leading practitioners and scholars, and will take place at the Marvin Center at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
A fiscal note is an official estimate of a bill’s budgetary effects; such notes often accompany criminal justice policy proposals—a full 37 states produced at least one fiscal note concerning significant justice legislation from 2009 to 2011. (By comparison, 18 states conducted at least one criminal justice CBA during the same period.)
Rigorous and consistent fiscal notes allow policymakers to determine whether a bill will cost money, or save money, in the long term.
The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis (SBCA) has published a preliminary program for its seventh annual conference and meeting to be held on March 19 and 20 at the George Washington University Marvin Center in Washington, D.C.
The focus of this year’s conference is “Advancing the Policy Frontier.” The conference includes several panels at the intersection of economic analysis, criminal justice, and evidence-based decision making:
- At 9 a.m., Stuart Shapiro, of Rutgers University, will chair the panel on social policy BCA, which includes two presentations on criminal justice.
Beginning this week I’ll be posting regular updates to the blog. As Vera’s RBF Fellow, I will be here for only a year, but I have a lot planned for CBKB. In the coming year there will be a particular focus on the intersection of CBA and policymaking, including the emergence of Social Impact Bonds and the use of justice CBA outside the United States.
As part of CBKB’s ongoing efforts to broaden and deepen the understanding and use of cost-benefit analysis (CBA) in criminal justice, this month we published the Cost-Benefit Analysis and Justice Policy Toolkit, which provides a step-by-step CBA guide and features several examples from the criminal justice field.
Cost-benefit analysis can be applied to a broad range of justice issues and help policymakers answer difficult questions, but there is no one-size-fits-all template for CBA; each analysis must be tailored to the investment being studied.
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.