The society is governed by laws that regulate individual’s behavior and protect their rights. When a person goes against the set rules, they are considered to have committed a crime. It is the work of the judiciary to administer justice by ensuring that those who commit crimes are punished as stipulated in the law. The judiciary, therefore, looks into a case or a complaint, determines if the accused has committed a crime and determines the suitable punishment if the person is guilty. In the last three decades, the rate of crime has been rising rapidly (Rosenberg & Mark, 2011, p.2).
Policymakers responded to this problem by making tougher laws passed in political and ideological interests (Rosenberg & Mark, 2011, p.2). The stricter laws encourage minimum jail terms and long incarceration period for criminals. The requirements led to increased number of inmates. The laws have, indeed, reduced the level of crime and offered justice to many victims. However, the cost of administering justice has risen too, prompting the government to look into ways of managing it (Roman, 2013). Policy makers have, therefore, adopted the economics of cost-benefit analysis in formulating policies that help to balance between achieving justice and reducing the cost incurred.
A cost-benefit analysis is a tool that is used to critically analyze the gains an organization will obtain from investing a certain amount of funds in a project. The criminal justice system is a complicated area to apply the cost analysis model because most of the costs and benefits obtained from justice are not easily quantified. State and federal governments invest a lot of resources in preventing and correcting crime. The government, therefore, needs to carry out an elaborate analysis of how the resources are utilized to obtain maximize benefits and incur minimum costs. The process of cost-benefit analysis involves identifying the various alternatives available. In the handling of crime and administering of justice, states are faced with various options (Roman, 2013). For example, a state may have to choose between prosecuting an individual and taking the person to a mental institution. It is also difficult to choose between building additional prisons and setting up youth crime prevention centers. The state chooses the option that enhances public safety and minimizes the cost (Roman, 2013). A cost-benefit analysis can be used in evaluating different programs such as sentencing policy and other methods of correction.
The parties to benefit from a program need to be identified, and the benefit quantified. Most of the benefits derived from a justice system are indirect (Roman, 2013). The people who reap the benefits are third parties and not part of the process. A person abusing drugs is a threat to the society. The government must choose between taking the person to a rehabilitation center and doing nothing about the individual. If the later is determined, the person will be influenced by the drugs and commit a crime that will land them in prison. If the government decides to rehabilitate the person, the entire community benefits since the person will be transformed into a dependable citizen. States such as Washington have engaged in innovative crime control and correction programs that have helped reduce the level of crime and save the cost of carrying out the program (Rosenberg & Mark, 2011, p.4). Some of those ways are behavior therapy for youth offenders and technological monitoring techniques for non-violent offenders.
A cost-benefit analysis is not, however, an efficient method of determining the effectiveness of a crime control program since it does not have a standard way to quantify costs or benefits. Some costs such as the psychological effect of victimization cannot be easily calculated (Roman, 2013). There are also other non-statistical variables such as the motivating factor for the criminal that can lead to inaccurate decisions based on cost-benefit analysis.