Cost-Benefit Analysis of Criminal Justice Programs: What Role Does it Play in Policy? What Role Should it Play?

Mark A. Cohen, Vanderbilt University

ABSTRACT
This paper will review the "state-of-the-art" in conducting cost-benefit analysis of criminal jujstice programs and its growing use and acceptance as a policy tool in the U.S. and the UK. Since cost-benefit analysis is relatively new in the criminal justice arena, there are no agreed upon methodologies for valuing crime reduction benefits. Thus, it is common for different researchers to arrive at entirely different conclusions due to differences in what and/or how they are measuing costs and benefits. This paper will explore the various methods that are being used, their limitations (both theoretically and empirically), and discuss recent attempts to standardize the methodology. Finally, it will consider the role that cost-benefit analysis should play in the criminal justice policy arena.

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Updated 05/20/2006