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.