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WSIPP’s Benefit-Cost Tool for States: Examining Policy Options in Sentencing and Corrections

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Steve Aos, Elizabeth Drake - August 2010

Can knowledge about “what works” to reduce crime be used to help states achieve a win-win outcome of lower crime and lower taxpayer spending?

The Washington State Institute for Public Policy has constructed an analytical tool for the Washington legislature to help identify evidence-based sentencing and programming policy options to reduce crime and taxpayer criminal justice costs. With additional financial assistance from the MacArthur Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts contracted with WSIPP to: (1) develop the tool, (2) apply it to a policy process currently underway in Washington State, and (3) help Pew make the tool available to other interested states.

This report describes the tool (as of August 2010) in detail and illustrates its use by applying it to two hypothetical sentencing policy options in Washington State. The tool assesses benefits, costs, and risks. Results from the two hypothetical examples point to possible win-win policy combinations.

Report ID: 10-08-1201

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