Cost-Benefit Analysis in Criminal Law

Darryl K. Brown

University of Virginia School of Law

Washington & Lee Public Law Research Paper No. 03-5

This paper explores the prospects for integrating criminal law into the widespread trend elsewhere in the executive branch of using cost-benefit analysis to improve policymaking and enforcement practice. The paper describes the substantial array of unnoticed and under-valued costs created by the America's unique and fairly recent commitment to severe incarceration policies. It then maps the challenges for employing CBA in criminal enforcement practice. Those challenges include CBA's own methodological and conceptual limitations, public choice problems created by the populist structure of criminal justice administration, constraints on CBA in criminal justice in light theoretical commitments to retributivism, and practical limits employing such a policy in the executive branch when legislatures are unwilling to reduce statutory punishment mandates. Despite these obstacles, the paper concludes that a properly devised, CBA-based decision procedure - one that takes account of distributive concerns - is a promising avenue for rationalization and reform of state and federal criminal justice. (Comments especially welcome on this draft through fall of 2003, when the journal editing process begins. Send to brownd@wlu.edu.)

Keywords: criminal law, criminal procedure, cost-benefit analysis, prosecutorial discretion

JEL Classification: K14, D61, K23, K41, K42, D63

Accepted Paper Series

Not Available For Download

Date posted: May 23, 2003  

Suggested Citation

Brown, Darryl K., Cost-Benefit Analysis in Criminal Law. California Law Review, Vol. 92, No. 2. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=410241

Contact Information

Darryl K. Brown (Contact Author)
University of Virginia School of Law ( email )
580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 2,586

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo4 in 0.437 seconds