Shannon M. Carey of NPC Research discusses the impact of the Rockefeller Drug Law Reform, which in 2009 eliminated New York's mandatory prison sentences for most felony drug offenders. According to a study she co-authored, court-ordered treatment enrollment after the reform was implemented in 2009 increased by 77 percent. Also, the study estimated that there would be a potential $2 of newly available resources after five years for every taxpayer dollar invested.
The following is a transcript:
ROB WOLF: Hi, I'm Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. Today I'm with Dr. Shannon Kerry, and executive vice president and senior research associate at MPC Research, which is based in Portland, Oregon. Today we're talking about a study. The proper name of the study is Testing the Cost Savings of the Judicial Diversion Program. And if I understand correctly, what this study is looking at is the impact that that passing of the Rockefeller Drug Law reforms in April 2009 had on judicial diversion. In other words, drug addicted offenders who were going through court. How many were now being diverted to alternatives to incarceration. So I thought maybe we could begin with the parts of the study which really looked at the impact on treatment and on sentencing outcomes.
DR. SHANNON KERRY: Sure. So the first question that we looked at was, as you said the impact on treatment and what we found was quite a bit of an impact. There was a 77 percent increase in enrollment into treatment programs, and so people are being diverted into treatment instead of being incarcerated. The actual numbers went from 1,801 participants in the one year before to 3,192 people in the one year after October 7th, when it was implemented. So that's, again, a 77 percent increase in enrollment in treatment.
ROB WOLF: And that's statewide in all of New York?
DR. SHANNON KERRY: That's all the state, right.
ROB WOLF: So 77 percent increase. So it really, by giving the judge’s discretion, which is essentially what the law did—freed them up from a mandatory jail sentence, many of them took advantage of that, clearly.
DR. SHANNON KERRY: Right. And it did vary by geographic location. So some places increased up to 500 percent, and in other places there wasn't much difference.
ROB WOLF: The other issue was—
DR. SHANNON KERRY: The second question was what kind of sentences to people receive for the same charges? So Article 216 is the name of the actual legislation. And people who are eligible for Article 216, we wanted to see what their sentences were before and after it was actually implemented. Before the implementation, 100 percent of the people who had an Article 216 eligible charge were convicted. Afterwards, it was about 81 percent of the people. So 19 or almost 20 percent of the people after Article 216 had their cases dismissed. So if they successfully completed the program, they never had a conviction. As far as sentencing outcomes, we found that people spent less time in jail and less time on probation, and about the same time in prison. And then community supervision was also lower after implementation.
ROB WOLF: Well let's move on to the cost benefit part of the study. What costs were you looking at, and what benefits were you actually measuring?
DR. SHANNON KERRY: The first question we looked at was what was the cost of a judicial diversion case in itself before the new law was implemented and after. What we found was the cost of judicial diversion, including the program with treatment, was about $18,500. The cost of the case that was eligible for judicial diversion, but before judicial diversion, the actual cost of processing that case was about $13,000. So it was fairly expensive per offender to process them anyway. And the difference in cost was about $5000, a little bit more than $5,000 per offender. So judicial diversion does cost more, and the majority of that additional cost is due to treatment.
ROB WOLF: I see. And so the $13,000, before the law was passed involved all the sort of non-treatment aspects that take place in a case before someone's going to jail. Before the actual sentence is implemented?
DR. SHANNON KERRY: Right. So then the next question we asked was about the sentence for that judicial diversion eligible case, so what we're calling the instant case. So what kind of sentence did people get before, and what kind of sentence did they get after? So earlier we talked about the finding we had about the sentencing practices is that people after judicial diversion spent less time in jail and less time on probation, and about the same amount of time in prison. So that translates into cost if they spent less time in jail and less time on probation, then they're going to cost less. With prison being basically a wash, there wasn't a big difference between them, there was a total savings due to judicial diversion of about $5,500 per offender.
ROB WOLF: So in that case, you're simply comparing the amount of time spent in jail, prison, or probation for both these groups?
DR. SHANNON KERRY: Correct.
ROB WOLF: And so this is where you saw some savings, because there was less time spent in prison and on probation for those involved in judicial diversion after the implementation of the law?
DR. SHANNON KERRY: Right. So those people who were spending less time in jail were spending a lot more time in treatment. So that treatment cost we talked about earlier, $5,000, is kind of made up for by them not spending the time in jail.
ROB WOLF: So what else did you look at?
DR. SHANNON KERRY: The other thing that we wanted to look at was the impact of being in judicial diversion on their future criminal behavior. So did they get rearrested less often because they went through treatment or not? Because Article 216 wasn't implemented until 2010, October 2010 we didn't have enough time to look to see if people who were literally sent through the new judicial diversion had lower recidivism outcomes. When we were doing the study it was 2012. Most of the people were still in the program. So what we did was we took another study that CCI is just in the midst of completing, and they looked at people who went through drug court and people who didn't, and they selected out the people who had Article 216 crimes. And then they compared the comparison group to people who went through drug court for a three year period, looked at their recidivism outcomes. And then we put costs to those recidivism outcomes. What we found was over three years, the cost of someone who went through judicial diversion was just under $20,000, so $19,000. The cost of their time in jail, prison, their court cases, their new rearrests. Altogether over three years came to just under $20,000, $19,589 specifically. While the cost in the comparison group, people who were eligible for judicial diversion that didn't go was $25,787, so almost $26,000 which results in a savings of just over $6,000 per offender. We then extrapolated over a five year period. It comes to about $11,000 per participant, a benefit of $11,000 per participant. And then if you include victimization costs, which anybody who committed a person crime or property crime, there's a victim involved. So when we included the victimization costs as well, it comes to just over $18,000 saved, per offender, for that time period.
ROB WOLF: And what is that associated with? The victimization cost? That's actually the value of the stolen goods?
DR. SHANNON KERRY: It's a whole combination of when there's a victim involved there's often, you know, injuries and the property, and the damage, fixing the damage. It's all those things combined.
ROB WOLF: But it doesn't include things like pain and suffering? It just includes the tangible injury? Like if someone was injured, it's the medical costs. Is it also their lost wages?
DR. SHANNON KERRY: Yes. And we pull those from a national study of victimization, so those are ones that were calculated specifically for New York.
ROB WOLF: And when you look at benefits, do you also calculate things like someone is now re-employed, and therefore contributing taxes to the economy, and that sort of thing?
DR. SHANNON KERRY: We do include that when we can, but for this study we were looking specifically at taxpayer savings due to criminal justice costs. So they didn't include the employment costs.
ROB WOLF: So overall what was your finding? There's clearly the money that goes into any case involving judicial diversion, but then there's also money saved. So when you compare those two, what's the overall conclusion?
DR. SHANNON KERRY: Well what we found is that as far as investment goes, there's kind of a net investment of just over $5,000 per offender. And then if you look at the people afterwards, their recidivism, we found that there's a net savings of about $10,000, a little over $10,000 per offender. So basically the net benefit is a little over $5,000, which is a cost benefit of 1:2. So for every dollar you spend investing in the program, you get $2 back.
ROB WOLF: That sounds like a substantial, or meaningful, at least, return on an investment.
DR. SHANNON KERRY: It is pretty good.
ROB WOLF: Well I want to thank you very much for taking the time to explain your work on this study which is an impressive piece of work. People can download it from our website, and from MPC Research website, which is—Shannon, if you don't mind telling me?
DR. SHANNON KERRY: It's www.mpcresearch.com.
ROB WOLF: Great, well I've been speaking with Dr. Shannon Kerry, and executive vice president and senior research associate at MPC Research based in Portland, Oregon. We've been talking about the recent study that she was involved with along with the team here at the Center for Court Innovation that looked at the Cost Savings of the Judicial Diversion Program, here in New York, after the passing of the Rockefeller Drug Law reforms. I'm Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. You can download this and other podcasts at our website, www.courtinnovation.org and also on iTunes. Thanks for listening.