Alexandra Bratanova, Jackie Robinson, School of Economics Discussion Paper No. 537 December 2014, School of Economics, The University of Queensland.

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This paper provides an economic evaluation, using cost-effectiveness analysis, to identify and quantify the possible avoided costs and number of youth diverted from becoming clients of youth justice services if the Queensland Government invested in justice reinvestment programs. It is a first step for the integration of economic evaluation into the discussion about justice reinvestment for Queensland. This paper examines corrective services, youth justice services and community services in the “business as usual” case, estimating the present value of these costs, over the period 2015-2030, to be $8.862 billion. That is, the taxpayers of Queensland will pay almost $9 billion over the next fifteen years on the youth justice system if the existing approach to youth justice does not change. However, an upfront investment of $10m over four years and a focus on justice reinvestment (prioritising resources towards supporting at-risk young people and reducing the risk of them becoming clients of youth justice services), could make a substantial difference. Specifically, it is conservatively estimated that with appropriate investment, out of 110 at-risk children, annually, 7 could be expected to be diverted from committing offences which would otherwise lead to community based- supervision and one person could be prevented from offending resulting in detention-based supervision. The study estimates that 6 people could avoid imprisonment each year and 15 people could be removed from community correction each year. In a more optimistic scenario, assuming that community services, represented in the analysis by intensive family support, are 5-10% efficient in the prevention of youth offences and at least 1-2% efficient in the prevention of people from entering corrective services, redirecting funds from detention centres and other costly responses to criminal offending towards early intervention services, could save the Queensland budget up to $263m by 2030.