Policymakers and practitioners face difficult decisions when they allocate resources. As resource constraints have tightened, the role of researchers in informing evidence-based and cost-effective decisions about the use of funds, labor, materials and equipment — and even the skills of workers — has increased. We believe research that can inform decisions about resource allocation will be a central focus of criminal justice research in the years to come, with cost-benefit analysis (CBA) among the key tools. This report about the use of CBA is aimed at not only researchers but also practitioners and policymakers who use research to make choices about how to use limited resources. Although we include NIJ’s Multi-site Adult Drug Court Evaluation (MADCE) as an example of CBA in practice, this report is not just about using CBA in drug courts.
Our intent is to help researchers, state agencies, policymakers, program managers and other criminal justice stakeholders understand:
- What CBA is and in which contexts it is appropriate.
- Which kinds of information can — and should — be collected to facilitate a CBA.
- What the results of a CBA mean.