Use of Cost Effectiveness Criteria in Selecting Program Models

Peter W. Greenwood, Greenwood & Associates

When the National Academy of Science Panel on Violence published its final report in 1994 it did not identify any specific strategies or program models that were proven to be effective in reducing criminal violence. In the 8 years that have elapsed since the publication of that report the research community has identified at least a dozen program models that have proven themselves to be effective through rigorous scientific testing, long term follow-up of subjects, and replication in multiple sites. Most of the proven programs involve individually targeted approaches to high-risk youth. Most require a significant expenditure per subject, ranging from a few hundred dollars for the less intensive programs, to more than $10,000 per subject for youth already involved in the juvenile justice system. However, despite these significant costs, many of the proven programs have been shown to produce savings in future criminal justice costs that far exceed the costs of the programs - more than $10 in savings for every one dollar invested in the program. However despite this potential win/win situation, very few communities have moved aggressively to capitalize on this new information.

This paper looks at how this information is being used by communities to select program models, and the roadblocks that arise to prevent full exploitation of the information.

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Updated 05/20/2006