useful as a means of understanding public opinion, they are based on public perceptions concerning the severity of crimes, which may include misperceptions about the frequency of injuries in typical criminal events (see Cohen, 1988b). Moreover, these studies are generally unable to distinguish between the generic harm associated with an injury and the actual consequences of any one victimization. The latter would be particularly important if one were interested in the extent to which the consequences of victimization vary across different segments of the population (e.g., age or sex).
Society's ability to control criminal behavior is limited by its ability to pay for police, courts, and corrections. In an effort to reduce crime, the severity of its consequences, and the cost of preventing and controlling crime, society has undertaken many criminal justice experiments. Recent examples in corrections include intensive probation (National Institute of Justice, 1987), electronic monitoring of offenders (National Institute of Justice, 1989a), and shock incarceration programs (National Institute of Justice, 1989b). Other criminal justice policy experiments include preventive police patrols and misdemeanor spouse arrest programs for domestic violence (National Institute of Justice, 1988).
One of the advantages of using dollars as a common metric for analyzing criminal victimizations is that we can compare the benefits of reduced victimization to the costs of the proposed policy. If two options have identical crime control effects but differing costs, the choice is simple. Unfortunately, few policy alternatives are so easily compared. In a more realistic case where a new policy reduces crime at some additional expense (or increases crime at a savings), one of the key questions is whether the reduced (increased) crime level is worth its price. Only by monetizing the cost of criminal victimization can one begin to answer that question.
There have been a few attempts to conduct benefit-cost analyses of criminal justice programs. For example, Friedman (1977) concluded that the social benefits of the Supported Work experiment in New York exceeded its social cost. This conclusion was reached despite the fact that the "costs" of crimes averted by this program were largely underestimated due to the state of knowledge prevailing at the time. More recently, the deterrent and incapacitative effects of longer prison sentences were combined