Benefit-Cost Analysis of
Programs that Impact Crime
In 2021, the Alabama Legislature created the Study Commission on Interagency Cooperation and Collaboration on the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Formerly Incarcerated Individuals (Reentry Commission). According to Act 2021-478, one of the responsibilities of the Reentry Commission is to “[i]dentify, implement, and promote evidence-based research, policies, strategies, and programming to support successful reentry and reintegration.” To aid in the identification and promotion of evidence-based programs, ACES provided a list of rigorously studied policies, strategies, and programs that have been proven to impact criminal recidivism rates among previous offenders to the Reentry Commission.
Each of these programs have been rigorously studied, resulting in statistically significant impact on crime. For the purposes of this report, ACES grouped the programs into the following categories:
- Custody Programs
- Supervision Programs
- Adult Mental Health & Substance Use Programs
- Education & Childrens Programs (Includes Child Welfare and Child Mental Health)
- Public Health Prevention Programs
Supervision and custody programs are operated within the traditional adult criminal justice realm. Custody programs may be found within state prisons or jails while supervision programs could be delivered in a host of settings across the state, including inpatient facilities or alternative courts.
The remaining categories reflect programs delivered in non-traditional criminal justice settings. These programs often are targeted at different outcomes but were found to have an impact on crime.
It should be noted that not all programs had a positive impact on crime. Some programs may result in more criminal activity among participants, but the overall benefits of the program significantly outpace the negative criminal component.
Because these programs are evidence-based, ACES was able to conduct a benefit-cost analysis on the programs to produce an estimated return on investment – benefits – and the likelihood that the return on investment would exceed the marginal cost of delivery – probability that benefits will exceed cost. This analysis will aid the Reentry Commission in two more of its objectives involving the lowering the “collateral costs of incarceration” and to “cost-efficiently advance reentry and reintegration efforts.”
There are a few of important things for policymakers to consider about this analysis.
First, the analysis is limited to those programs or policies where rigorous evidence is available. It is certainly possible for programs that are not included in this analysis to lead to effective results. Those programs should be evaluated for their impact on crime at which point this analysis can be updated.
Second, ACES estimated average marginal cost for program delivery based on the best available information, not specific to any current Alabama run program. For all programs, a Monte Carlo simulation was performed to determine the likelihood that total lifetime benefits would exceed the cost of delivering the program. As with any investment analysis, estimating benefits and costs necessarily involves uncertainty and some degree of speculation about the future.
Third, ACES did not directly evaluate programs for outcomes or effectiveness. This analysis reflects the estimated benefits if Alabama were to realize similar outcomes to those found in the evidence. As these programs are matched to programs in Alabama, further work should be conducted to ensure these programs are implemented correctly, identify actual marginal cost of delivery, and conduct separate impact evaluations for Alabama specific results.
Supervision & Custody Programs