Since the mid-1980s economic evaluation has become an essential appraisal tool of health and related social services. In this context, the Criminology Research Council funded a study that investigated the economic costs and benefits of implementing in-prison sex-offender treatment programs (SOTP) for male child sex offenders.
Cost–benefit analysis is always based on many assumptions, and not all benefits are accurately estimated or necessarily realised. However, the authors estimate that, if a 14 percentage point reduction in recidivism is achieved following an in-prison treatment program, this could result in an economic gain of up to $39,870 per prisoner, or $3.98 million for 100 treated prisoners. Assessing the intangible costs of child sex abuse is also fraught with difficulty and the authors estimate intangible costs of child sex abuse to be ten times the dollar value of tangible costs.
This paper provides a summary of key aspects of the larger study and complements ongoing research at the Australian Institute of Criminology on cost–benefit analysis and criminal justice.