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Prevention, Crime Control or Cash? Public Preferences Towards Criminal Justice Spending Priorities

33 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2005  

Mark A. Cohen

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics; Vanderbilt University - Law School; Resources for the Future

Roland T. Rust

University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business

Sara Steen

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Sociology

Date Written: June 2005

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Crime prevention, public policy, survey methodology, willingness-to-pay

JEL Classification: K00, K14, H50

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Mark A. and Rust, Roland T. and Steen, Sara, Prevention, Crime Control or Cash? Public Preferences Towards Criminal Justice Spending Priorities (June 2005). Robert H. Smith School Research Paper No. RHS 06-048. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=762626 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.762626

Mark A. Cohen (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States
615-322-0533 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://business.vanderbilt.edu/bio/mark-cohen/

Vanderbilt University - Law School

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

Resources for the Future ( email )

1616 P Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States
202-328-5000 (Phone)

Roland T. Rust

University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business ( email )

College Park, MD 20742-1815
United States

Sara Steen

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Sociology ( email )

Boulder, CO 80309
United States
303-492-6427 (Phone)

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