# References

This page contains further detail on the large number of references on which this project builds.

## Cost of Crime

### Description

There are several main methods used to estimate the costs of crime, of which I focus on the two most prominent: the bottom-up and the top-down approaches. Research using the bottom-up approach attempts to list all the ways in which crime can inflict costs on society; then, it estimates each of these costs and aggregates them. The other main approach goes by several different names: top-down, willingness-to-pay, or contingent valuation. Rather than aggregating up various costs, research using this method relies on surveys of individuals that ask a series of questions aimed at determining the total amount a reduction in crime would be worth.

### References

1. Cohen (1988)
Uses a variety of data sources to estimate medical costs and lost wages and adds “pain and suffering” costs by comparing the distribution of injuries with jury awards in personal injury cases.
2. Miller, Cohen and Wiersema (1996)
Examines jury awards in cases of crime with the assumption that juries are making awards of the amounts that individuals would be “willing to accept” to offset the crime.
3. Cohen, Miller and Rossman (1994)
Includes criminal justice costs.
4. Cohen, et al. (2004)
Uses contingent valuation methodology, which asks survey respondents questions such as “Would you be willing to pay an extra $200 to reduce the likelihood of burglary by 10%?” 5. Roman (2012) Uses a similar approach to Miller, Cohen and Wiersema’s (1996) bottom-up approach to calculating crime cost, but makes use of a substantially more detailed data set of jury awards. 6. Ludwig and Cook (2001) Focuses on contingent valuation to avoid gun violence. 7. Cohen, Rust, Steen & Todd (2004) 8. Cohen (2009) 9. Cohen and Piquero (2009) Examines how costs vary by age of offender for a group of repeat-offenders. ## Cost of Prison ### Description Prison costs include costs of feeding, housing, and monitoring prisoners, healthcare costs and capital costs. The largest component of prison costs (over two-thirds) is spent on employee compensation. Twenty-six percent of costs go to prisoner living expenses, with medical care accounting for just under half of that component. Utilities, housing, and food make up the rest (with food accounting for just four percent of overall prison expenditures). Capital expenditures also account for only four percent of the prison expenditures. ### References 1. Vera Institute of Justice (2012) Uses state budget data and divides it by the prison population and finds an average annual cost per inmate of$31,360 (in 2010 dollars).
2. Pew Center on the States (2008)

## Other Costs of Incarceration

### Description

Incarcerating offenders will lower necessary spending on other criminal justice costs, including those for policing, courts, and probation officers. I account for these costs by assuming that a large fraction of offenders would otherwise be on probation if they were not incarcerated and that these costs would be of similar magnitude.

A large number of inmates would likely impose costs on the state through welfare, foodstamps, and other social benefits if they were free. Thus this may be seen as a net savings. At the same time, detention facilities must provide medical and mental health care to their wards. These costs are included in the costs of prisons, so it is likely that on net there is no appreciable cost-benefit effect from social benefits.

One concern often raised about incarceration is its impact on long-term employment prospects. A forward-looking offender should incorporate this into the value of freedom. Diminished job opportunities may also result in higher recidivism rates, which are reflected in a lower specific deterrence estimate.

Rehabilitation is a goal of incarceration that is sometimes put forth. While I do not attempt to quantify rehabilitation in moral dimensions, the economic effects may be quantified in terms of increased job prospects and decreased criminality. As mentioned above, any change in offending behavior due to incarceration will be incorporated into the specific deterrence estimates.

Much has been written about the long-term societal consequences of mass incarceration. These are perhaps the most difficult elements to quantify, and include such phenomena as the promotion of racial stigma, poverty, absent parents, loss of economic mobility, distorted marriage markets for Black women, detrimental effects on children, and increases in juvenile crime. These large-scale, societal harms are certainly of a magnitude that they would significantly impact a cost-benefit analysis. However , in this article I confine myself only to the consideration of policy changes with relatively short-term impacts on incarceration. Because the policy changes discussed in this article do not result in the abolition of the large-scale use of incarceration in society, I assume that these long-term effects will remain relatively unchanged.

An additional cost that has not been included thus far is the dead-weight loss of taxation. This is simply the notion that since taxes distort choices (for example, an individual will work less than she would otherwise if she must pay income tax) they impose a social cost. Since incarceration is paid for out of tax revenue, these costs should be adjusted upward to account for the deadweight loss. Estimates for appropriate adjustment factors range from 25% upward. Some cost-benefit analyses incorporate this cost, while others do not. I leave it out of the current calculation, but it can be easily added in.