Prevention, Crime Control or Cash? Public Preferences Towards Criminal Justice Spending Priorities
Mark A. Cohen
Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Law School; Resources for the Future
Roland T. Rust
University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business
University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Sociology
Robert H. Smith School Research Paper No. RHS 06-048
We propose and test a new survey methodology to assess the public's criminal justice spending priorities. Respondents are explicitly forced to trade-off one type of crime prevention or control policy for another and to consider the fact that any money spent on crime prevention or control policies is money they could otherwise have in their pockets. Thus, respondents are asked to allocate a fixed budget into five categories - more prisons, police, youth prevention programs, drug treatment for nonviolent offenders, and a tax rebate to citizens. In a nationally representative sample, we found overwhelming public support for more money being devoted to youth prevention, drug treatment for nonviolent offenders, and more police. However, the median respondent would not allocate any new money to building more prisons and would not avail him or herself of a tax rebate if the money were spent on youth prevention, drug treatment and police. At the margin, we estimate the public would receive $3.07 in perceived value by spending $1.00 of their tax dollars on youth prevention; $1.86 in value for every dollar spent on drug treatment; and $1.76 in value for a dollar spent on police. However, the public would clearly not spend more on prisons at the margin, deriving only 71 cents in value for every dollar spent.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 33
Keywords: Crime prevention, public policy, survey methodology, willingness-to-pay
JEL Classification: K00, K14, H50
Date posted: July 31, 2005
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