Spending on Inmate Mental Health Cuts the Cost of Crime: White House Study

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Photo by Joshua Davis via Flickr

Programs that focus on addressing mental health and substance abuse issues of inmates can reduce the burden of crime on American taxpayers, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

In a policy brief issued this month, the CEA suggested that every dollar spent on prison reform in these programs could save between $0.92 and $3.31, and up to $1.96 on long-term incarceration costs alone.

The study was undertaken as part of the Trump administrations efforts to improve prison reform and re-entry programs that would result in lower recidivism.

Noting that the heaviest share of the crime burden is accounted for by high re-arrest rates, the CEA concluded “there is an empirical evidence base to support programs that focus on the prisoner’s mental health or substance abuse to prevent future crime.”

But it added that there is less evidence suggesting other types of programs, such as those aimed at educating inmates, are cost-effective.

It called for “increased investment” in generating such evidence.

The policy brief is available here.

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