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.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance’s National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) is featuring CBKB in its TTA Spotlight, which highlights training and technical assistance “engagements that have demonstrated success in achieving meaningful impact in the criminal justice system.”
We’re grateful to NTTAC for this acknowledgement of our work. Read the TTA Spotlight on CBKB’s training and technical assistance.
Finding salary information once meant poring over budget reports. But now it’s easier to find these numbers online, thanks to websites that promote open data and government transparency.
One good example, See Through NY, provides searchable budget information for New York State agencies and a salary database for all state and many municipal employees.
The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis (SBCA) has published a preliminary program for its sixth annual conference and meeting March 13 and 14 at the George Washington University Marvin Center in Washington, DC. (Note: The SBCA published its final program on March 7.)
On Thursday, March 13, a panel will focus on analysis of the justice system, including a presentation by Carl Matthies, a senior policy analyst with the Vera Institute of Justice’s Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit, and author of Advancing the Quality of Cost-Benefit Analysis of Justice Programs, who will discuss the new white paper.
Which CBKB blog posts from this year were most widely read? The following list spells them out, with one caveat: We excluded guest blog posts, which we highlighted last week.
So here are the Top Five posts from 2013:
It still surprises us: We ask busy, talented people if they’ll write for the CBKB blog—and most of them say yes. We’re grateful to the authors of this year’s guest blog posts, who covered a lot of ground, from policy reform in Alaska to social impact bonds on Rikers Island; from court performance measures to effective corrections programming and youth crime-prevention strategies.
How do you scale evidence-based programs? A look at OJJDP’s Juvenile Justice Reform and Reinvestment Initiative
Shay Bilchik is director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy. Kristen Kracke is a social science specialist at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).
High recidivism rates in the juvenile justice system have long been viewed as intractable.
Tom Roy is the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC). We recently interviewed Grant Duwe, the agency’s director of research, about how the DOC is using cost-benefit analysis (CBA). We corresponded with Commissioner Roy to expand on the discussion.
Can you tell us how you see CBA as helpful to your work and your staff’s work? What cost-benefit studies about criminal justice have you found especially valuable—and how so?
Last week, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ State Health Care Spending Project published a new report, Managing Prison Health Care Spending. The paper discusses practices that have important cost-benefit implications, such as these:
- Telehealth. By using electronic communications and information technology in clinical care, this approach doesn’t just control costs, but in some states delivers “better, cheaper care” to inmates.
Teri White Carns is a senior staff associate with the Alaska Judicial Council, where she has worked since 1974, directing many of its research projects. The council staffs Alaska’s Criminal Justice Working Group, a state-level commissioners and directors group that focuses on collaborating to guide policy and resolve interbranch problems.
When you’re reporting or writing about a cost-benefit study, it’s your job to extract the most important findings and decipher them for your audience, a group that’s probably not made up of analysts and economists. To the extent possible, you’ll also want to assess the quality of the research. The following materials can help you get a grip on basic cost-benefit concepts, as well as figure out what to look for in a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and what to investigate further.
The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) is hiring a fiscal analyst, who will be based in Washington, DC. NJJN supports and enhances the work of state-based groups to promote the reform of the U.S. juvenile justice system. NJJN is fiscally sponsored by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, a national 501(c)(3) organization.
Writing about cost-benefit analysis is hard. Writing or reporting about it on deadline is even harder. How do you tease out a study’s most important findings to tell a story your audience will care about and grasp?
For starters, here are three mistakes to avoid when reporting on cost-benefit results:
- Don’t equate benefits and savings.
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That’s how Gary VanLandingham, director of the Pew-MacArthur Results First initiative, described what states are doing, particularly in criminal justice and a few other policy areas. In a recent podcast interview with Andy Feldman, the special adviser for intergovernmental performance management at the federal Office of Management and Budget, VanLandingham talked about the advantages and challenges associated with cost-benefit analysis (CBA).
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If that is the question, this comic strip may provide an answer:
Have you come across a cartoon, illustration, or a joke that explains CBA in an entertaining way? If you have, we’d love to see it; e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post these things from time to time.
♡ 2013 by Mimi and Eunice.
The Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis is accepting papers for its 2014 annual conference, “Benefit-Cost Analysis for Evidence-Based Decision Making.” Abstracts are due Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013.
Submissions may address the link between theory and practice, the methods used to estimate particular types of costs or benefits, the application of benefit-cost analysis to specific case studies, the role of benefit-cost analysis in decision making, or any other relevant topic.
Interesting. When journalists gave their colleagues an “analysis assignment” about a recent criminal justice study, some of the questions sounded familiar, in a good way.
Journalist’s Resource, a project of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Society, promotes the use of “knowledge-based reporting” and considers news topics “through a research lens.” So when an editor wrote last month about a study of community prosecution in Chicago, we had a look at these “media/analysis tips” posted on the project’s website:
- What are the study’s key technical terms?