Topics: Cost-Benefit Analysis

Incarceration's Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America
*/ Local jails, which exist in nearly every town and city in America, are built to hold people deemed too dangerous to release pending trial or at high risk of flight. This, however, is no longer primarily what jails do or whom they hold, as people too poor to post bail languish there and racial...
Cost-Benefit Analysis and Justice Policy Toolkit
Throughout the justice field, demand is growing for cost-benefit analysis (CBA), an economic tool that compares the costs of programs or policies with the benefits they produce. Although there is no one-size-fits-all template for conducting a CBA, analysts and researchers must follow a common...
Cost-Benefit Analysis and Public Safety Technology: A Roundtable Discussion
Vera’s Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit convened a working group of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers with expertise in law enforcement and public safety technologies to discuss how public safety agencies use cost-benefit analysis (CBA) as a tool to inform budgetary decisions about the use of...
Using Cost-Benefit Analysis for Justice Policymaking
The Cost-Benefit Knowledge Bank for Criminal Justice (CBKB), a project of Vera’s Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit, convened a working group of researchers and policymakers to help advance the use of rigorous cost-benefit analysis (CBA) in decisions about criminal justice programs and policies. Input from...
Putting a Value on Crime Analysts: Considerations for Law Enforcement Executives
Like other government agencies, police departments are under great pressure to get the biggest return possible when investing taxpayers’ dollars in justice programs and policies. The Law Enforcement Forecasting Group of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance asked Vera to...


A New Role for Technology: The Impact of Video Visitation on Corrections Staff, Inmates, and their Families

This study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, will explore whether providing incarcerated people with access to video visitation improves the nature and frequency of prisoners’ contact with their families and other people who support them. It will also explore if these contacts improve their compliance with custodial rules and outcomes after their release from prison.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Center for Employment Opportunities

Vera's Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit worked with MDRC to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the Center for Employment Opportunities, an independent program launched by the Vera Institute that provides employment services to people with criminal records.

Cost-Benefit Knowledge Bank for Criminal Justice

Vera's Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit has developed a national knowledge bank for cost-benefit analysis in criminal justice to help practitioners and policymakers better understand the budgetary impact of criminal justice policy choices.

Impact Evaluation of the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience Program at Rikers Island

In 2012, the City of New York launched the nation’s first social impact bond—an innovative form of pay-for-success contracting that leverages private funding to finance public services—to fund the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience (ABLE) program, a large-scale initiative serving 16- to 18- year old youth detained in New York City’s Rikers Island jail.

Incarceration's Front Door: Reducing the Overuse of Jails

Local jails exist in nearly every town and city in America. While rarely on the radar of most Americans, they are the front door to the formal criminal justice system in a country that holds more people in custody than any other on the planet. Their impact is both far-reaching and profound: in the course of a typical year, there are nearly 12 million jail admissions—almost 20 times the number of annual admissions to state and federal prisons—at great cost to the people involved, their families and communities, and society at large. Through research, publications, and technical assistance to local jurisdictions, Vera aims to foster public debate and policy reform to reduce jail incarceration, repair the damage it causes, and promote safe, healthy communities.

The Price of Prisons

Vera’s Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit and Center on Sentencing and Corrections, in collaboration with the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States, have developed a methodology to guide a complete accounting of the cost of prisons.

The Role of Indigent Defense for Defendants with Mental Health Disorders

Vera’s Substance Use and Mental Health Program launched a project to study the role of indigent defense, commonly known as public defense, for defendants with mental health disorders (MHD) in January 2013. With support from the National Institute of Justice, this work aims to 1) enhance understanding of the challenges faced by indigent defenders and their clients with MHD; 2) improve outcomes for defendants with MHD; and 3) inform the development of guidelines and training materials for defense attorneys that address common challenges to providing indigent defense for people with MHD. 

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It may come as a surprise to learn that 90 percent of jails collect revenue from the people incarcerated there. To learn more about this practice, we at Vera reviewed data submitted by 35 jurisdictions as part of our Price of Jails survey. We found...
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Laurie Garduque is the director of justice reform for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. In this post, she explains how the Safety and Justice Challenge Network was formed, and what the 20 sites selected are going to do next. The...
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How much does it cost to house the 730,000 men and women in America’s jails? Seems like a simple enough question to answer, but the fact is, no one really knows. The U.S. government estimates $22.2 billion per year, but—as we found in our latest...
Christian Henrichson
Research Director, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
Carl Matthies
Senior Policy Analyst, Research Department

About this Topic

Vera helps policymakers and practitioners identify cost-effective criminal and juvenile justice interventions by providing them with information about the costs and benefits of program and policy options.