Aboriginal Justice Strategy Evaluation, Final Report

4. Key Findings (continued)

4.3 Efficiency and Economy

4.3.1 Comparative Cost Analysis of the AJS and the Mainstream Justice System

A cost analysis was conducted in conjunction with the 2011 AJS recidivism study as a means of estimating the cost efficiency of AJS-funded programs. The mainstream justice system was used for comparison as it is the only alternative for the majority of AJS-funded program participants. To simplify the analysis, only relative costs were included in each measure; costs incurred in the administration of both AJS program participants and other cases were not included.

The costs of AJS-funded programs were estimated based on information for fiscal year 2008-09[17] provided by a sample of 17 community-based justice programs across Canada. Total program spending was averaged over the recorded number of clients for each program during the fiscal year. The following definitions were used in estimating the costs per client of AJS-funded programs:

  • Program costs for AJS-funded programs were defined as the total funds received from programs from federal, provincial and territorial governments, including administrative costs of the program, in 2008 dollars. Start-up costs that were designated as one-time expenditures and that were not associated with service delivery were excluded from analysis.
  • Clients are defined for the purposes of this analysis as offenders referred to an AJS-funded program who participated in the program, whether or not they successfully completed the program.

For comparative purposes, the costs of the mainstream justice system, per implicated person, were estimated based on publicly available police and court data for fiscal year 2008-09. Spending covering court expenditures (including prosecution) and legal aid were included in the costs of the mainstream justice system, but policing and costs associated with carrying out sentences, including those incurred by correctional facilities, were excluded from analysis. The following definitions were used in estimating the costs per client of the mainstream justice system:

  • Court costs were defined as the total court expenditures processed in courts in 2002-03, adjusted for inflation to 2008 dollars and adjusted to account for the average increase in elapsed time/number of appearances per case between 2002-03 and 2008. The number of cases was calculated as the total number of civil and criminal cases processed in courts in 2002-03. The total court costs per total cases resulted in an estimated cost of approximately $1,418 per case in 2008[18],[19].
  • Total prosecution costs were calculated as the average prosecution cost per case (excluding British Columbia) in 2002-03, adjusted for inflation to 2008 dollars and adjusted to account for the average increase in elapsed time/number of appearances per case between 2002-03 and 2008. As a result, the total prosecution costs per case were estimated as $1,114 in 2008[20].
  • Legal aid costs were considered to be the sum of all provincial and territorial legal aid plans' direct legal service expenditures in the areas of criminal and civil law in 2008-09; these costs were $587,124,000[21].
  • Number of cases receiving legal aid was calculated as the total number of approved civil and criminal legal aid applications for all provincial and territorial legal aid plans, which in 2008-09 was 655,909[22]. The average legal aid cost per case was therefore calculated to be approximately $895.

To the greatest extent possible, only the costs that would differ between the AJS-funded community-based justice programs and the mainstream justice system were compared. Policing costs were excluded from analysis, as these costs are generally the same whether an offender is referred to an AJS program or proceeds through the mainstream justice system. Post-sentencing costs were excluded as no data on how sentencing differed between AJS program participants and offenders in the mainstream justice system was available. Additionally, a comparison of AJS program participant outcomes could not be made to offenders in the mainstream system in general, due to underlying differences in characteristics between the two groups.

The mean of the average cost per participant of the 17 AJS programs included in the study was $3,149.71, while the median was $2,129.81.

Costs per participant for programs under analysis ranged from $671.07 to $11,428.57 in the programs participating in the cost analysis. This wide range could be due to program differences in defining and tracking participants, and costs could be higher in newer programs that have not yet reached full capacity to serve clients. Of the 17 programs for which data was analyzed, federal and provincial/territorial financial contributions to AJS programs were approximately equal[23].

Costs per participant in the mainstream justice system were taken as the sum of the court, prosecution and legal aid costs per case, which totalled approximately $3,472 in 2008-09. Therefore, AJS provides immediate savings to the mainstream justice system in the amount of approximately $322.29 per program participant[24].

Although there were some methodological limitations in the comparative cost analysis, as discussed in Section 3.6, it appears that AJS community-based justice programs are a cost-efficient alternative to the mainstream justice system. This is especially true when considering the future cost savings to the mainstream justice system produced by AJS programs through reduced rates of recidivism on the part of program participants. Since the recidivism study found lower rates of recidivism among AJS-funded program participants than the comparison group, the cost savings of the AJS to the mainstream justice system extend into the years beyond program participation.

The present value, in 2008 dollars, of the longer-term (8 year) cost savings associated with the AJS were calculated based on the rationale that the differences in the participant and comparison groups' rates of re-offending result in fewer instances of AJS-funded program participants being involved in the mainstream justice system in the future, which reduces the amount of required future court expenditures. To estimate the value of these cost savings, the incremental reduction[25] in the average recidivism rates between program participants and the comparison group were calculated each year for eight years following program participation. Table 7 presents these incremental reductions in recidivism rates. The incremental reduction in the recidivism rate each year can then be calculated as an average cost savings to the mainstream justice system each year over the eight-year period in question, for each AJS-funded program participant. Since the recidivism study found the program participants in the study were 7.3% less likely to re-offend after one year than the comparison group, and the average cost per case in the mainstream justice system was estimated at $3,472, the cost savings per program participant, in 2008 dollars, one year later would be:

$3,472 × 7.3% ~ $253

Table 7 below provides the cost savings per program participant in each of the eight years following program participation.

Table 7: Incremental Reductions in Recidivism Rates of AJS Program Participants and Resulting Cost Savings
Time After Program Completion Cumulative Percent Who Have Re-Offended Incremental Percent Who Have Re-Offended Cost Savings Per Program Participant to the Mainstream Justice System Each Year (2008 $)
Participants Comparison Group
1 year 10.9 18.2 7.3 253
2 years 17.6 28.5 3.6 125
3 years 22.0 35.1 2.2 76
4 years 24.8 39.1 1.1 38
5 years 27.2 42.4 1.0 35
6 years 28.7 44.5 0.6 21
7 years 30.4 46.7 0.5 17
8 years 32.0 48.8 0.5 17

Finally, the total present value (in 2008) of the eight years of cost savings per participant was calculated using the cost savings per participant per year[26], and the TBS-accepted real social discount rate for federal cost-benefit analysis of 8% per year. The following formula for calculating present value was applied:


Using this formula, the present value of the cost savings per AJS-funded program participant over the eight years following program participation was $485.85, while the cost savings achieved the year of program participation was $322.29, for a total present value of savings of $808.14.

As AJS-funded programs served thousands of participants each year, these cost savings per participant would contribute to much greater total savings. As an example, in 2010-11 10,050 clients were served by AJS-funded programs[27]. Assuming the present value of the cost savings per participant to the mainstream justice system over eight years is $808.14, the total savings of one year's cohort to the mainstream justice system would be:

$808.14 × 10,050 = $8,121,807

This suggests that, in 2008-09, approximately $8M in present and future cost savings to the mainstream justice system were achieved through AJS-funded programs. As the costs of AJS-funded programs, numbers of clients served, and reductions in participant recidivism rates tend to remain relatively steady over time, it is reasonable to assume that the future cost savings incurred each year would be similar.

4.3.2 Streamlining Reporting

The National Data Requirements project was designed to implement an electronic reporting tool that would focus specifically on the information requirements identified in the 2007 AJS RMAF. The tool was specifically designed to meet the needs of Aboriginal community-based justice delivery organizations and FPT program funders, and was intended to streamline data entry for the programs and improve the consistency and accessibility of data. This streamlining would represent an increased efficiency for the community-based justice programs by reducing differences in federal, provincial and territorial reporting requirements. Agreement-in-principle has been reached on client indicators for the national database and AJD anticipates piloting the national data collection system by the end of this fiscal year.

Interview results indicate that the national data requirements project is a "work in progress", with mixed levels of confidence in the project. Some key informants indicated that the national data system was necessary and would improve accountability, while others were concerned that it would create an added level of reporting burden for community-based justice programs.

Some respondents emphasized the importance of reducing reporting requirements for low-risk programs, while others noted that the maintenance of program records is important to provide support for the legitimacy and effectiveness of programs. One key informant suggested that end-of-year reporting requirements be reduced to alleviate administrative burden, while ongoing monitoring of programs be increased throughout the year.

4.3.3 Linkages Between ALSP and AJD

Many AJD and ALSP respondents were comfortable approaching the other group with questions and indicated that the relationship between the groups was good, while others expressed interest in stronger ties. Making the links between the two groups more explicit could lead to increased partnerships and improved efficiency.

The previously mentioned lack of communication of the work of the Aboriginal Justice Working Group, chaired by ALSP, has led to AJD staff being less informed of some federal initiatives than the provincial and territorial representatives who participate in this working group. This finding was noted by both federal and provincial/territorial key informants.

Although no specific examples of duplication of work between the AJD and ALSP were mentioned, some key informants noted that work would be done more efficiently if staff were more aware of the priorities and needs of both groups; otherwise, work is completed without staff knowing fully the expectations of both groups.

4.3.4 Other Issues Related to Efficiency and Economy

Implementation of the Treasury Board Secretariat's Policy on Transfer Payments has had a positive impact on the efficiency of community-based justice programs and the Directorate

Many respondents indicated that the increased flexibility for community-based justice programs, as a result of effective AJD implementation of the Policy on Transfer Payments and risk-based program assessments, have reduced the administrative burdens of programs, allowing them to focus on service delivery and improving program efficiency.

Several key informants indicated that more work could be done by the AJD to fully implement Appendix K of the Treasury Board Secretariat's Directive on Transfer Payments, which specifies approaches that can be taken in transfer payments to Aboriginal recipients.

Implementation of multi-year funding agreements has been a success

The implementation of multi-year contribution agreements with the provinces and territories, whenever possible, was a recommendation of the 2010 AJS mid-term evaluation. Key informants were unanimous in describing a significant improvement in this area since 2008, and in noting that the multi-year funding agreements in place have been successful at improving the efficiency of the AJS.

Increased communication and coordination with other federal initiatives related to Aboriginal justice could improve efficiency

Many respondents indicated that it seemed programs related to Aboriginal issues work in silos, contrary to Aboriginal values. Better communication and being better informed could lead to more holistic service delivery, which would be more efficient.

Many respondents noted that communications at the federal level between groups involved in Aboriginal justice were limited. Increased collaboration between the AJD, ALSP and other federal groups involved in the delivery of Aboriginal justice programs was seen as being an opportunity to improve the efficiency of all Aboriginal justice initiatives. It was also suggested that a review be completed to determine whether Aboriginal justice initiatives are delivered by the most appropriate groups.

  • [17] At the time the cost analysis was conducted, 2008-09 was the most recent year for which data on costs of the mainstream justice system was available. Programs participating in the cost analysis were therefore asked to provide cost data from 2008-09 for consistency.

  • [18] 2002-03 was the most recent fiscal year for which data was available at the time of the study. For comparative purposes, values were converted to 2008 dollars.

  • [19] Justice Canada, Costs of Crime in Canada, 2008, p.9.

  • [20] Justice Canada, Costs of Crime in Canada, 2008, p.10.

  • [21] Statistics Canada, Legal Aid in Canada: Resource and Caseload Statistics 2008-09, 2010, p.21.

  • [22] Statistics Canada, Legal Aid in Canada: Resource and Caseload Statistics 2008-09, 2010, p.51.

  • [23] Of the 17 programs that provided data for the cost analysis, the average proportion of the federal financial contribution was 51%, while the average provincial/territorial contribution accounted for 49% of the total budget.

  • [24] $3,472.00 - $3,149.71 = $322.29

  • [25] The incremental difference in rates of recidivism over time calculates the percent reduction occurring each year, rather than the cumulative reduction over time which calculates the total reduction in recidivism over the full time period.

  • [26] Cost savings are based on immediate savings due to the relatively low cost of AJS-funded program and future savings based on reduced recidivism.

  • [27] Data on the total number of clients participating in AJS-funded programs was not available for 2008-09, but is assumed to be similar to the number served in 2010-11.

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