U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Using Cost-Benefit Analysis for Justice Policymaking

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2014
25 pages
This paper discusses what to look for in a justice-related cost benefit analysis (CBA), what cost-benefit results mean, and how use those results to inform decisions.
This paper provides information to help people make sense of justice CBAs even if they have little interest or expertise in examining the details of a cost-benefit study. Written for a broad range of readers, including elected officials and their staff, policymakers, justice agency personnel, and service providers, this paper draws on the experience of policymakers and practitioners, as well as CBA experts and researchers, to explain what CBA is, how it's applied to justice policies and programs, and how it differs from other economic tools; how to assess the overall strengths and weaknesses of a cost-benefit study; what potential pitfalls to avoid when interpreting cost-benefit results; what information beyond the bottom-line results to pay attention to in a CBA; and how CBA fits within larger policy, planning, and decisionmaking processes. Figures, resources, and appendix

Date Published: April 1, 2014