NIJ seeks research strategies on costs and benefits of Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act
The National Institute of Justice is seeking innovative ways of developing strategies to measure the implementation costs and public safety benefits of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. The goal is to improve the effectiveness of sex offender registration and notification programs in the United States.
We recently published the 9th and 10th parts of our online CBA toolkit: the Time Horizons tool and the Monetizing Benefits tool. The core set of 10 tools focuses on the foundational elements of a cost-benefit study. We encourage you to look at the main toolkit page on our website, as well as any of the tools you haven’t read.
Dr. Sara Watson is the executive vice president of America’s Promise Alliance and the director and cofounder of ReadyNation, a collaboration of business leaders, economists, and philanthropists that enlists business leaders to advocate for proven investments in young children. I spoke with Sara about the benefits of early childhood programs and ReadyNation’s efforts to encourage investment in those initiatives.
Consider a drug treatment program that has been shown to lower recidivism rates among participants. Although a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) would typically include benefits to taxpayers in terms of lower costs for the criminal justice system, should the following benefits also be included?
- Benefits conferred to participants who complete the program successfully, such as increased future earnings and better health;
- Benefits to the children of successful program participants, such as increased well-being and educational attainment; and
- Benefits to businesses and neighborhoods, such as increased commercial activity and property values resulting from reduced crime.
With budget offices at the local, state, and federal levels focused on cutting costs, why bother looking at benefits that aren’t related to cost savings? Why not focus primarily on the costs of policies and programs?
Budgets are about choices and priorities. We promote policies and fund services we believe the government should pursue because we want those things to generate positive outcomes for our society.
What distinguishes cost-benefit analysis (CBA) from other types of economic assessments is that it measures not just costs but also benefits, and expresses both in monetary terms so that they can be directly compared. Benefits are the positive outcomes that result from an investment, such as fewer crimes or budget savings.