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Economic analysis of interventions for young adult offenders

Feb 25, 2010

from the report for the Barrow Cadbury Trust by Matrix Evidence:

This report summarises an economic analysis of alternative interventions for young adult offenders. It concludes that, for all offenders aged 18-24 sentenced in a Magistrate’s court for a non-violent offence1 in a given year:

  • Diversion from community orders to pre-court RJ conferencing schemes (following a police triage service in which police officers make an immediate assessment of the need and likely benefit from a community intervention) is likely to produce a lifetime cost saving to society of almost £275 million (£7,050 per offender). The costs of RJ conferencing are likely to be paid back within the first year of implementation. During the course of two parliaments (10 years), implementation of such a scheme would be likely to lead to a total net benefit to society during this period of over £1 billion.
  • Diversion from custody to community orders via changes in sentencing guidelines is likely to produce a lifetime cost saving to society of more than £12 million (£1,032 per offender). The costs of changing sentencing guidelines are likely to be paid back within three years of implementation. During the course of two parliaments (10 years), implementation of such a scheme would be likely to lead to a total net benefit to society during this period of almost £33 million.
  • Diversion from trial under adult law to trial under juvenile law following maturity assessment is likely to produce a lifetime cost saving to society of almost £5 million (£420 per offender). The costs of maturity assessments are likely to be paid back within five years of implementation. During the course of two parliaments (10 years), implementation of such a scheme would be likely to lead to a total net benefit to society during this period of almost £473,000. 

The unit costs and benefits included in this analysis refer to:

  • The cost of diversion. That is, the cost of diverting young adult offenders away from the criminal justice system or into different paths through the criminal justice system.
  • The cost of the alternative sentences. That is, the cost of community orders instead of custody, or RJ conferencing instead of community orders.
  • The economic impact of changes in re-offending both during and after sentence. The economic impact of a crime includes the cost to the criminal justice system of responding to a crime, the healthcare costs of treating the victim of a crime, the victim’s financial cost of a crime, and the pain and suffering experienced by the victim of a crime. It does not include the cost of the loss of income due to having a criminal record. 

....This analysis provides evidence that is crucial to informing decisions and ensuring that public resources are used in the most effective way possible. Such evidence is already routinely applied in decisions on whether to provide drugs on the NHS, and it is important that similar high standards of evidence generation are also applied in criminal justice. 

The analysis was commissioned by Barrow Cadbury to evidence-base some of the recommendations produced by the Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance in their 2009 report, A New Start: Young Adults in the Criminal Justice System7. This report makes the case for a wholesale shift in the way the Government works with young adults in, and at risk of becoming involved with, the criminal justice system. This shift requires more than tinkering around the edges of the system. Instead, it asks for a cross-departmental, in-depth look at vulnerable young people aged 18 to 24 involved in the criminal justice system, and a commitment to finding effective ways of working with these young adults in trouble to help them move away from crime.

Read the whole report.

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