participant. Multisystemic therapy also easily passes a benefit-cost test: a recent benefit-cost analysis of a program in Missouri shows large economic returns (Klietz, Borduin, and Schaeffer, 2010). For institutionalized juveniles, the benefits of aggression replacement therapy, functional family therapy, and family integrated transitions (Trupin et al., 2004) exceed their costs by roughly $65,500, $57,300, and $16,000 per participant, respectively. For the small group of juvenile sex offenders, sex offender treatment yields large benefits that exceed the high treatment cost by nearly $25,000 per participant.6
Six program models meant to limit the penetration of adolescent offenders into the juvenile justice system have benefits that substantially exceed costs. The benefits per participant of adolescent diversion (for lower risk offenders) are about $51,000 greater than the costs. The corresponding figures for teen courts, drug courts, restorative justice, coordination of services, and victim offender mediation are $16,800, $9,700, $9,200, $4,900, and $3,400, respectively.
Other programs clearly do not make sense economically. Boot camp programs do not reduce crime, but they cost less if one considers institutional care as the alternative and assumes that all individuals enrolled in these programs would be in an institutional setting if not enrolled. It is important to recognize that some programs are economically inferior to conventional practice (i.e., the benefits are lower than the costs). This is the case for alternative parole programs. Wilderness challenge, intensive probation supervision, and Scared Straight are all economically inferior to conventional practice. In these cases, the benefits are less than the costs; running these programs costs money for no gain in the long run.
Parole is the only custody status for which no alternative programs pass a benefit-cost test. There may be parole practices that are economically better than standard practice, but they have not yet been developed or successfully tested. Juvenile justice officials may consider supporting the development and testing of new parole models that might prove successful and pass a benefit-cost test. Alternatively, they can use their scarce resources to implement the already proven programs that intervene during a different custody status.
These bottom-line estimates of total benefits and costs have a degree of uncertainty because estimates of some of the underlying parameters needed
6 Of the 14 programs that pass a benefit-cost test when all benefits are counted, 10 still pass even if one compares program costs only with the benefits to the criminal justice system (i.e., ignoring the large benefits to victims). The four that do not are family integrated transitions, sex offender treatment, multisystemic therapy, and drug courts. The sources for Table 6-2 provide separate benefit estimates for victims and the criminal justice system.