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Cost of Processing a Drug Offender Through the Criminal Justice System

NCJ Number
D E Olson; L S Stout
Date Published
21 pages
This paper examines the economic impact of conducting drug investigations, arresting and prosecuting drug offenders, processing drug offenders through the court system and placing them on probation or in prison, and treating drug addiction in the criminal justice setting.
The most difficult impasse in accurately measuring costs of specific criminal justice activities involves determining the proportion of expenditures targeting these specific activities. In Illinois in particular, several agencies and programs are involved in the apprehension, prosecution, defense, incarceration, and treatment of drug offenders. An analysis of costs associated with these agencies and programs shows that it cost an average of $2,711 in 1989 to investigate and arrest a drug offender. In cases involving complicated investigations, such as drug delivery, average costs were considerably higher. For example, in 1990, drug offender investigations and arrests made by Metropolitan Enforcement Groups cost an average of $4,209 per case. Because of the amount of time required to establish contacts with drug dealers and the extensive investigation time involved in covert operations, investigation and arrest represented the most expensive components in the presanction handling of drug dealers. Costs of prosecuting and defending accused drug offenders varied by Illinois jurisdiction, with drug-related cases costing roughly 200 percent more than the statewide average for all criminal cases. Costs were also incurred for the pretrial incarceration of drug offenders, figured as per diem costs of approximately $46 per day. Court costs for processing drug offenders included judicial and administrative costs, such as judicial salaries, courtroom commodities and expenses, and clerical and support staff costs. Correctional costs varied in relation to imposed sanctions (probation or imprisonment), and additional costs were associated with drug testing and drug treatment. The total cost of processing a drug offender through the criminal justice system was estimated to be as high as $70,112. 12 references, 24 footnotes, 8 tables, and 4 figures


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