Drug court cost savings analyzed

The estimated savings from the county’s local drug court are at least $486,312 based on data for 92 offenders from March 2001 through March 2007, according to a memo released Friday.

The cost savings analysis was part of the county’s “Friday memo,” sent to department heads and rank-and-file workers.

“Most of these savings are generated from reduced jail days, followed by reduced prison days and finally reduced probation days,” according to the memo by Jeff Brown, director of the county’s Health & Human Services Agency.

“However, this study likely underestimates cost savings as it only look at direct savings to the criminal justice system over a short, two-year period of time and did not include other important costs to our local community,” it continued.

This could include savings from reduced victimization costs, reduced usage of health and welfare programs and increased child support payments, among other factors, the memo said.

The findings are at Drug Court Memo.

Cost-benefit studies of drug courts are complicated, however, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report (entitled “Evidence Indicates Recidivism Reductions and Mixed Results for Other Outcomes.”)

“Conducting a cost-benefit analysis is theoretically straightforward,” according to the report. “However, the analysis is more complicated in practice because of the decisions that have to be made about who to include as recipients of the benefits and how to measure costs and benefits.”

The decisions include:

•Identifying the baseline, of which there is no standard.

•Determining relevant costs. Deciding what’s “relevant” can skew the results.

•Deciding relevant benefits. Reductions in recidivism lead to benefits, but recidivism itself —relapsing into the previous condition — is hard to measure.

The GAO report is here.

A good “human” look at successes, failures of drug court is here.

Did Hastert ‘sing like a canary’ to snare others?

imagesI wrote earlier about the plea bargain in the Hastert loan fraud case on Thursday.

I suggested that any others *within* Loan Sense might not be charged because of the plea agreement to drop charges of filing false documents.

But this doesn’t mean Hastert didn’t “sing like a canary,” deciding to inform investigators about other alleged criminal behavior in the hard-loan business. He was a pretty well connected guy.

Time will tell, but it’s worth pondering, considering the relatively quick plea agreement. Hastert’s own deal still requires a judge’s approval.

NC police costs need a more watchful eye

A weekend budget meeting in Nevada City confirmed what many residents have been saying for a while: The police department is putting a squeeze on the city’s budget.

It’s the single largest expense.

I’m all for “law and order.” But I’ve never understood why public safety is allowed to suck up so much of the costs in our government: Definitely in Grass Valley (an untold story in the local media), as well as with the Sheriff’s Office. We keep adding deputies, it seems.

At least the Sheriff’s Office generates some revenue by holding federal prisoners at the jail. In Grass Valley, the department expanded when the city annexed land from the county.

Big public safety budgets partly stem from an overly cautious mindset: perhaps a byproduct of “white flight” to our communities from the big cities for fear of crime. But the fear is exaggerated: Our crime rates are relatively low.

The personnel and pension costs attached to public safety can easily grow if not left unchecked.

Nevada City has grappled with public safety costs for a while. I’ve said for years they should consider contracting more work with the Sheriff’s Office — or at least run a much tighter ship. At least study the issue.

Let’s hope it’s not too late. The city faces ongoing budget deficits and the potential loss of tax revenue from “big fish” such as Thomson Grass Valley that might leave town.

As one of my brother in laws would say, “Get ‘er done!” over at City Hall.

Coming up with ‘cool’ online contests

Our local papers in Grass Valley and Truckee are promoting a mother-child look alike contest.

It might seem like a cool Mother’s Day feature for the Web. Trouble is, not many entries.

For many, the “Palmolive girls” went out of vogue a while ago. Many daughters love mom but value independence. How about a more relevant campaign to the current generation?

One thought: What do you and Mom learn from each other’s Facebook pages? That would generate some interesting discussion. You also could upload a photo from each.

This reminds me of when newspapers created news pages in the ’80s to attract younger readers. They called them “youth pages.” Good idea, but they needed a more youth-oriented eye for execution.

Newspaper ‘add ons’ alienate readers

Newspapers continue to alienate readers and advertisers left and right as they struggle to generate revenue.

Here’s two examples that I heard about this weekend:

•The McClatchey-owned Sacramento Bee is charging 25 cents for a booklet of its weekly TV listings. “If you don’t want it, then find your own listings,” a reader said. He’s fed up with being “nickled and dimed.”

•The Union in Grass Valley, our local paper, alienated a long-time advertiser by requiring that this person pay to advertise in the free Sunday Express tabloid as part of an ad buy in the Prospector Entertainment guide (which runs in the subscription-based broadsheet on Thursday).

“These are different products — with much different reach,” the person said.

So the person just dropped both ads all together — a true “lose-lose” proposition.

To mom on Mother’s day: ‘Ayekoo’ (well done)

Despite conventional wisdom that Mother’s Day was invented by Hallmark, some believe its roots go back to ancient Greece, where a mother of Greek gods was worshipped.

It is now celebrated around the world. Here are some different perspectives:

•Memories filling a Mother Day’s void is here.

•Celebrating the day in Ghana is here. In Ghana, the phrase is “Ayekoo” or well done.

•Making a Mother’s Day video is here.

‘Father and son’

imagesOne of the joys of iTunes is spontaneity. Some nights, my son and I sit in front of our Mac and choose songs together.

It’s not much more than a jukebox: just 99 cents and in a few seconds, we’re singing together.

Tonight he chose “Puff the Magic Dragon” (the Peter Paul & Mary version). I chose “Father and Son” from Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam).

The lyrics are very moving: A father and son talking with each other about growing up. We laughed when we could hear our dog snoring in the background.

We’ve been enjoying this ritual since my son was too young to sing. I’d just sing to him.

The next best experience is plunking down some money in the jukebox at the Willo, outside NC. They let us sit by the jukebox in the bar for dinner, at least on a weeknight.

The moments we share together like this are extraordinary. As the song goes, “I am old (or older), but I’m happy.”

Next up: perhaps some Carole King. When my wife gets the bill she just rolls her eyes.

Enjoy your weekend. Don’t forget Mother’s Day: Foothill Flowers was jammed on Friday.