I just read an interesting study and report about the monetary value of saving high risk youth before they turn to crime. You can read the abstract:
There is growing interest in crime prevention through early youth interventions; yet, the standard United States response to the crime problem, particularly among juveniles, has been to increase the use and resource allocation allotted toward punishment and incapacitation and away from prevention and treatment. At the same time, longitudinal studies of delinquency and crime have repeatedly documented a strong link between past and future behavior and have identified a small subset of offenders who commit a large share of criminal offenses. These findings suggest that if these offenders can be identified early and correctly and provided with prevention and treatment resources early in the life course, their criminal activity may be curtailed. While researchers have studied these offenders in great detail, little attention has been paid to the costs they exert on society. This paper provides estimates of the cost of crime imposed on society by high risk youth. Our approach follows and builds upon the early framework and basic methodology developed by Cohen (1998), by using new estimates of the costs of individual crimes, ones that are more comprehensive and that significantly increased the monetary cost per crime. We also use new estimates on the underlying offending rate for high risk juvenile offenders.
I like seeing studies like that. We can use scientific estimates to create effective policies. However, it seems common sense that it would cost less to prevent crime, violence, and victimization from happening in the first place than it would to only react after people have already turned to a life of crime.
Police, courts, jails, and prisons all cost a lot of money. Worse yet, those methods usually do not stop the convict from committing more crime, except when the convict goes to prison for life.
In contrast, we can fix the problem before it gets out of hand by helping at-risk youth before they turn to a life of crime. In analogy, you can save money by buying a simple oil change rather than waiting for your car to run out of oil and break down. Like I said, it seems like common sense.
What do you think?