The costs and benefits of criminal justice policies affect us all—taxpayers, elected officials, practitioners, and society as a whole. As cost-benefit analysts and budget officials know, any meaningful discussion about government costs requires an understanding of marginal costs because these are the costs affected by policy changes.
Because little concrete information is available about how to calculate marginal costs for cost-benefit analyses (CBA) of justice policies or programs, CBKB has published A Guide to Calculating Justice-System Marginal Costs.
This spring CBKB will publish A Guide to Calculating Justice-System Marginal Costs. Primarily a “how-to” technical guide for analysts, the publication is also intended to inform policymakers who have an interest in the costs and benefits of criminal justice initiatives. (Note: We published the guide in May.)
This won’t be the first time CBKB has addressed marginal costs.
A page-one article in Saturday’s New York Times raised fascinating questions about what other jurisdictions can learn from New York City, where the police force expanded in the 1990s and both crime and incarceration have decreased since then. CBKB staff often field questions about whether the benefits of hiring more police officers outweigh the costs.
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.
Drug courts, policing, and pretrial detention, along with costs, costs, and even more thoughts on costs, were our special topics in 2011.
- Drug courts
- CBKB roundtable on cost-benefit analysis and cost effective policing
- By the numbers: A quick look at the costs and benefits of more police
- Targeting resources and reducing crime through hot-spots policing
- More affordable policing
- Managing policing costs by increasing legitimacy
- Guest blog: The costs and consequences of more policing
- Pretrial detention
- Economics of pre-trial release: Current research and future directions
- Assessing the cost and benefits of pretrial service programs
- Resources for conducting CBA’s of pretrial detention and release options
- Guest blog: A reflection on the costs and outcomes of the Jefferson County Bail Project
- Guest blog: Investing in pretrial service programs and the need for CBA