The static models that economists have traditionally used are poorly suited to characterising either offending decisions or policy options. Contemporary models are an improvement but still need a lot of work before they can be made useful. The expansion of data collection on offending opens up great possibilities for exploring criminal careers and pathways but also brings challenges and barriers. This provides the foundation for criminal justice economics continuing to be exciting research field.
Standard economic analysis underpins the methods used by government for the appraisal and evaluation of projects, as exemplified by the Treasury Green Book. In day-to-day terms the making of a ‘business case’ is central to policymaking and relies on the same underpinning. But there remains great scope for developing methods of capturing project benefits and costs in the criminal justice sphere in a way which is true to the spirit of this analysis.
With pressure to cut budgets in the criminal justice sector it has become more important than ever to:
- Translate the achievements and objectives of projects into measurable outcomes
- Balance the benefits from projects against implementation costs
- Assess the true costs of staff and the costs of making workforce adjustments
- Develop better models for translating short term outcomes such as a reduction in reconviction rates into longer term projections of harm reduction
- Develop models of offending that reflect offender lifestyles and choices