Calculating Unit Costs in Allegheny County: A Resource for Justice System Decision-Making and Policy Analysis

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Programs within the criminal justice system can be valued using the costs they save to the system, to the victims and to society; examining programs in this way – in conjunction with outcome information – can assist in resource allocation decisions. With technical assistance from the Vera Institute of Justice, a system-wide cost database was created that includes agreed-upon unit costs within Allegheny County’s criminal justice system.  Understanding the drivers of costs within these systems (e.g., changes in population served, changes in operating costs, or both) allows analysts to value the benefits of current and proposed programs.  This information is also valuable for managers and policy-makers who can compare the benefits and costs of programs to make informed management, budget and program decisions.

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