Liaison and diversion: the economic case

Effective diversion requires some up-front investment in dedicated liaison and diversion teams working in police stations and courts. Most if not all of the direct costs of dedicated diversion services are likely to be covered by short-term cost savings in the criminal justice system.

A typical six week stay in prison costs about £5,000 per case. In comparison, a typical one-year community order involving probation supervision and drug treatment costs £1,400. Even a highly intensive two-year community order, involving twice-weekly contact with a probation officer, 80 hours of unpaid work and mandatory completion of accredited anti-offending programmes, costs less than six weeks in prison, at £4,200. There is increasing evidence that well-designed interventions can reduce re-offending by 30% or more.

The economic and social cost of crime committed by recently released prisoners serving short sentences amounts to £7-10 billion a year. Much of this cost falls directly on the victims of crime, but 20-30% is borne by the public sector, mainly the criminal justice system and NHS. And the total lifetime cost of crime committed by an average offender following release from prison is of the order of £250,000.

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