Essay: Correctional intervention Programs

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  • Correctional intervention Programs
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Correctional intervention Programs are built to ensure public safety and the interventions are designed for the offenders in a way that facilitate their rehabilitation and successful reintegration into the society. Many studies observed that punitive measures did not prove to be effective in reducing recidivism where locking up offenders in a prison had not only resulted in more cost but also not quite effective as the victims at some point return to the society with many problems and needs for services. Thus there is a difference between correctional intervention and punishment as the former tries to modify the offender behavior through treatment and external controls. National Institute of Correction (NIC) has talked about eight principles of effective intervention. They are-
• Assessing the risk or need levels and intervening with the help of actuarial instrument tool
• Using motivational techniques to change behavior of the offenders
• Targeting and solving the needs through recognition of individual differences and developing adequate program for the offenders
• Engage well trained staff for cognitive behavior strategies and other activities
• Increasing the ratio of positive reinforcement
• Engage actively in pro-social support for offenders
• Maintain an accurate and detailed documentation of the cases
• Providing feedback to maintain integrity and improve outcomes

Latessa (1998) points out that even though public support rehabilitation they also want public protection and that effective correctional intervention meets most of the principles of effective intervention. Sometimes it is seen that the correctional intervention works better with high- risk offenders rather than low risk offenders (Christopher and Latessa 2004). Cost benefit analysis approach has often been adopted to understand the efficiency of the correctional intervention programs. A program is considered to be successful or effective if its benefits outweigh the costs. Thus the cost effectiveness of the correctional interventions program will be a reduction of recidivism and smooth reentry of offenders into the society. Developing standards for CBA of interventions will not be easy and with the help of literatures this paper will attempt to build a cost benefit analysis framework for correctional intervention program.

Estimating the cost and benefits of correctional prevention program has been a difficult as it involves a lot of subjective criteria. prevention programs most of the time tries to measure the cost and benefit in terms of the crime rate within the society which is limited sometimes as the feeling of insecurity often goes up or remains stagnant and doesn’t get counted at times. Correctional intervention becomes significant when the situational or juvenile prevention programs are not effective (Chisolm). Even though not much work has been done on the cost benefit study of community based intervention, it’s an important area of study as it aims at enhancing social capital in order to prevent victimization, insecurity and offending behavior through community initiatives in order to deal with local problems. Offender treatment is an important part of the prevention programs and it focuses on basic education, employment skills and adjustment techniques. Welsh and Farrington (2000) did an extensive study on the cost and benefit of correctional interventions. According to them, using a benefit cost ratio rather than net value has proved to be more effective as it provides a single measure of benefit obtained from one-dollar investment and also controls for different period of a program. The selection of perspective, i.e. public or society, to measure the cost benefit of a program is important when it’s funded by public money. However the studies omitted the intangible costs to the offenders due to the difficulty in quantifying them. Fass and Pi (2002) suggested that tangible costs incurred by the justice system outweigh the benefits but also mentions that the costs and benefits estimate are “not complete enough to provide definitive answer”. Out of pocket expenses like property damage and medical costs were calculated as the monetary cost in the program. In order to achieve desired results comprehensive assessments of resources and relative costs needs to be counted in (Kuklinski, 2015). Thus the financial cost to victims can be categorized into two types which are – Direct out of pocket expenditure including medical expense, property loss, loss of wages etc. and indirect cost such as pain, suffering, victimization etc. Majority of the studies focused on tangible costs rather than intangibles costs due to the absence of estimates to measure them. Due to limited resources the estimates on cost of staffing, administration, agency cost, quality assurance etc. are obtained from state agencies and program developers. The Willingness to pay is used to get the estimates of value of statistical life. With respect to the victim costs, the tangible costs are easily quantified but problem lies with the intangible aspect, which can be estimated using various approaches. Victimization can be calculated by using cost of illness approach measuring medical costs and lost earning and thus can capture the cost of victim. The cost to society is often measured by using the contingent value method which is based on two approaches- willingness to pay approach which looks into how much people are willing to pay to avoid the damages resulted due to crime and willingness to accept approach that measure the willingness of victims to accept compensation for their loss or damages. The offender cost is estimated by calculating the opportunity cost of incarceration. Different approaches are adopted by researchers to estimate the costs associated with treatment programs where some estimated the dollar value associated with a collection of outcomes where as some looked into a single outcome such as incarceration (McCollister, French, Inciardi et al., 2003). Swaray et al (2005) included the cost of police response to false alarms and other associated cost of crime using a gross costing approach to estimate the intervention costs. Estimates of the salary of the treatment givers needs to be included while calculating the cost of the program. Farrington (2000) reviewed seven studies on correctional intervention program and found that most of the costs were associated with direct cost and the ignored the indirect or intangible costs. A report by Donato, Ron, et al (1999) included the estimates of the annual direct cost of personal crime at $105 billion which included medical costs, loss of earnings and public programs. However including the intangible costs like quality of life and pain and suffering increased the estimates to $405 billion annually where in the costs associated with pain and suffering and reduced quality of life was estimated to be 20.8 US billion dollars.

Benefits of a program are calculated in order to understand whether maximum utilization of resource is done and its compared to the costs to understand that. Thus we can say that a program is successful if it achieves the net benefit. A distinction also needs to be made between real and notional benefits (Welsh and Farrington, 2001). Real monetary benefits are achieved when program results in reduction of the expenditure (direct/measurable) and notional benefits are often seen in the form of effect. Costs and benefits of a program are often subjective and they are analyzed from the perspective of taxpayers, the nontax payers/victims and/or the participants. Thus the benefits of correctional intervention can measure through a reduction in crime or recidivism and also from a victims point of view, decrease in pain and suffering and fear. Benefits can be tangible or direct and indirect or intangible. Direct benefits are direct result of a program, which are also to some extent intentional and expected. The indirect benefits are those that unplanned and positive byproducts of a program. Thus the correctional intervention programs are expected to result in a direct benefit by reducing recidivism in a community and indirect benefit of it would be the feeling of safety among the victims and other community members. Most of the studies on cost benefit analysis have pointed out that most important benefit of the program is reduction in recidivism. Treating the offender results in reducing their chances of re-offending within the society and that in turn results in few other associated benefits such as lesser chance of victimization and better quality of life. Donato, Ron, et al (1999) included in their list of tangible benefits, savings on health care, legal cost etc. which are a direct benefit for the taxpayers and the victims. The other nonmonetary benefits as mentioned by them include reduction in pain and suffering and fear of victimization. In a study on annual costs and benefits comparison of probation and community-based substance abuse treatment (CBSAT), Downey et al (2012) found that preventing a single arrest in the District of Columbia generated $72,000 in social benefits, 86% of which was due to prevention of victimization. The department of correction receives $1400 as benefit from each arrest that is prevented. Thus a treatment can prevent the victims from taking leave from work and save the out of pocket medical costs and expenses due to loss of property.

Effective treatment program can result in reduction in the expense of criminal justice that is borne by the taxpayers. To add to that, due to treatment, the offenders are often able to get back to lead a normal life and earn money. This in turn helps the society as their economic participation yields tax revenue. A reduction in tax also happens as the victim related medical costs goes down along with insurance claims. There are several indirect benefits to the society as well. For example if the correctional intervention is effective then it might help in breaking the cycle of violence by preventing the children and others witness violence. The offenders also gain some advantage from the treatment they receive due to correctional intervention. They get education and employment opportunities and thus earn money. It also results in an improved quality of life for them.

However one important point that needs to be mentioned is that a treatment program can be considered beneficial i.e. benefit exceed cost, only if it succeeds in treating significant number of offenders which will bring down the rate of crime in a society or community. Thus counting benefits becomes an important aspect of cost benefit analysis, as it’s often difficult to calculate the indirect or intangible benefits of the program.

Cost Benefit Estimation
Doing a cost benefit analysis of correctional intervention programs is difficult as it mostly deals with subjective criteria. In this paper I am including the ways to estimate cost and benefits from all three perspectives i.e. taxpayer, victim and offender. In order to measure the taxpayer cost it is better to include the marginal cost instead of the average cost (Mathhies, 2014, Aos et al, 2011) and thus avoid the overestimation of costs. The offender cost is estimated at $14,626 per year. It is often seen that majority of the time the intangible costs and benefits exceed the tangible costs and benefits for example, the intangible cost of crime at $450 billion exceeded tangible cost of $400 in 1987-1990 compared to $8,500,000 of intangible cost which exceeded $1,500,000 of tangible cost in 2008 (Mc Collister et al, 2010). Using the perspective of the Department of Corrections doesn’t give the opportunity to include the intangible costs like pain and suffering cots of victim and society. Welsh and Farrington (2000) reviewed seven cost benefit studies done on correctional intervention between 1974 and 1994 in United States using the public perspective. Six studies out of the seven used reconviction as a measure of recidivism and all the studies had a desirable benefit cost ratio ranging from 1.13 to 7.14 which implied that the public received $1.13 to $7.14 for every dollar spent on the program. The loss in earnings of offenders accounts to $7542, which is almost $60,000 in total (Cohen, 1998). According to Cohen (1998) the total external estimates of a life of crime ranges from $1.5 to $1.8 million of which 50% is intangible cost. According to him the including the victim benefits result in a return of $31.40 per dollar spent. In a study done in California by Zhang et al (2006) on community based correction service they found the average daily per parolee was $1.78 along with a net savings of $21 million in two years due to avoidance of incarceration. Thus the results indicated a greater return from the expenditures that were made for the program.

From the above literature we can say that doing a cost benefit analysis needs to give equal if not more importance to both tangible and intangible cost and benefit. Not using the intangible costs and benefits will result in incorrect estimates. However one difficulty with the literature is that the estimates of benefits were not stated explicitly. To understand the effectiveness of the program more experimental research designs like randomized experiments needs to be used. Looking at the above costs and benefits we can say that the correctional intervention programs are quite beneficial but a program can be called successful or beneficial, if it provides the treatment effectively i.e. reduce the number of offenses.

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