This dissertation is meant to determine if Benjamin Franklin's axiom, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", holds true when it comes to preventing crime. The primary focus of the research is the direct, out of pocket, cost to taxpayers for chronic, serious, and violent offenders. The direct taxpayer costs measured at the municipal, county, state and federal levels of government include law enforcement, prosecution, public defense, court costs, incarceration, out of home placement of children in need of protection as a result of a parent being incarcerated, and probation. Taxpayer costs avoided are provided from age 10 through age 25 and are broken down by activity and level of government. If a cost, either tangible or intangible, could not be directly linked to crime, it is not included.
Career criminals are a small percentage of the population, but have a tremendous impact on public safety. Snyder (November 2001) estimates that eight to 10 percent of adolescents commit up to 70 percent of all serious and violent adolescent crime. These high-risk children have multiple risk factors and are often part of the cycle of intergenerational crime.
Public safety is important to policymakers. When crime decreases through apprehension of an offender or by preventing the criminal act, the public feels safer and more secure. Punishing or rehabilitating a criminal is mandatory, but crime prevention services are usually discretionary. Preventing crime, however, will avoid human pain and suffering, and can cost taxpayers less. If a crime prevention program is research based and has achieved measurable, positive results, public safety will be improved, but at what cost to taxpayers?
The taxpayer costs avoided tool resulting from this study can help policymakers answer the question: Is the cost to taxpayers for providing an ounce of crime prevention and avoiding economic and physical pain and suffering, worth the cost to taxpayers for the pound of criminal justice system cure? In some cases, the answer will be yes, and in others, it will be no. Policymakers will have the taxpayer costs avoided tool to assist them in making an informed decision.