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Cost Matters: A Randomized Experiment Comparing Recidivism Between Two Styles of Prisons

NCJ Number
Journal of Experimental Criminology Volume: 5 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2009 Pages: 371-397
Date Published
December 2009
27 pages

In comparing recidivism, this study evaluated the costs and benefits of operating the Maryland boot camp, referred to as the MAP program, versus operating the MAP program at a traditional prison.


Study findings indicate that even without consideration of differences in post release impact, the boot camp cost less to run per inmate. In addition, the boot camp generated substantially less recidivism-harm relative to the traditional prison. The State of Maryland operates a correctional boot camp for adults, a facility focused on delivering intensive therapy through a highly structured environment. The program allows offenders who are first time inmates and have nonviolent convictions to reduce their prison terms to a 6 month sentence in exchange for serving those 6-months successfully at the boot camp. This is referred to as the MAP program. However, in 2001, the State considered a policy change in which the MAP program would be administered at a traditional prison facility rather than the boot camp. This change was tied directly to the issue of program costs and recidivism. This study was designed to test assumptions regarding reduced administration cost under the policy change, as well as equivalence in recidivism costs. A randomized experiment was conducted to isolate the difference in program impacts on recidivism, and cost-benefit tools were used to translate differences into harm-weighed metrics. Tables, appendix and references

Date Published: December 1, 2009