Medicine, 2009), but these are not considered here. Although there are more than 500 impact evaluations of juvenile offender programs (Drake, Aos, and Miller, 2009; Lipsey, 2009), benefit-cost analyses of these programs are sparse.

The benefit-cost analyses produced by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) are widely regarded as the most thorough and comprehensive in the juvenile justice literature. WSIPP’s studies are notable for several reasons. First, they examine a wide variety of juvenile justice interventions that have been carefully evaluated. These include model programs endorsed by the Blueprints for Violence Prevention Project (, such as multisystemic therapy, multidimensional treatment foster care, and functional family therapy. They also include other interventions that WSIPP judges to be effective, such as drug courts, as well as interventions shown to be ineffective, such as Scared Straight and juvenile intensive probation supervision. The studies use meta-analytic methods to combine findings from different evaluations of the same intervention to derive the effects on crime outcomes used in the benefit-cost analyses. Second, they use established methods to project the reductions in crime that an intervention is likely to produce over a 13-year follow-up period. They then use the projections to estimate the resulting cost savings for the criminal justice system and victims. The projected reductions in crime and the criminal justice system cost savings are meticulously derived from Washington state data. Victim costs are taken from Miller and colleagues (1996). Finally, WSIPP analysts are transparent in describing their assumptions and methods.5

Table 6-2 presents the findings for the juvenile justice programs analyzed in Drake and colleagues (2009) and Washington State Institute for Public Policy (2011). The message is clear: Whether one chooses to intervene with juvenile offenders when they are institutionalized, in group or foster homes, or on probation, states and localities can adopt programs that produce remarkably large economic returns. The same is true for programs that seek to divert juveniles before they are convicted of further crimes. Indeed, some programs deliver $10 or more of benefits for each $1 of cost. Although impressive, these findings are actually conservative; existing benefit-cost analyses measure the interventions’ costs well but usually omit some important and possibly large categories of benefits.

For juvenile offenders in group or foster homes, the benefits of multidimensional treatment foster care exceed its costs by $33,300. For juveniles on probation, the benefits of aggression replacement therapy and functional family therapy both exceed their costs by about $34,500 per


5 For further discussion of methods of estimating the benefits of preventing crime, including reductions in victim costs, see Appendix A.

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