In December the Federal Communications Commission released a notice of proposed rulemaking for interstate inmate calling services. The question before the FCC is whether to issue new incentives and/or regulations to ensure “just and reasonable” telephone rates for individuals at correctional facilities. In the United States, incarcerated adults are typically limited to making collect calls or debit calls (with charges deducted from an account).
Christian Henrichson, a senior policy analyst with the Vera Institute of Justice’s Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit, writes about the recent State Budget Crisis Task Force report, fiscal planning, and prison costs—and how they are interrelated. You can read his new post on Vera’s blog.
We welcome your questions and comments about cost-benefit analysis and justice policy.
Some interesting studies involving cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and criminal justice are on the horizon. Here are a few reports to look out for in the coming months.
50-state scan of CBA and policymaking: Results First, a project of the Pew Center on the States, will release a study this summer that examines which state governments are conducting cost-benefit analyses and how they are using the results to inform policy and budget decisions.
A cost-benefit analysis, when done properly, can provide a solid justification for more government spending (or public investment, depending on your point of view). But cost-benefit studies can also address other questions:
In what areas can government reduce or avoid spending? One of the best-known examples is the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s examination of program and policy options to reduce the future need for prison beds, reduce crime, and save taxpayer dollars, the results of which enabled the state to avoid building a new prison in 2007.
Today the Vera Institute of Justice released The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers. This report on state prison costs in 2010 is unique in that it captured taxpayer costs paid by state agencies other than departments of corrections—and not just those within corrections budgets. (In some states the other costs include employee benefits, capital costs, and inmate health care.) Additionally, Vera staff calculated the cost of underfunded contributions to pension and retiree health care programs for corrections employees, figures that must be included in a comprehensive accounting of prison costs.