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Estimated Costs to the Pennsylvania Criminal Justice System Resulting From the Opioid Crisis

This project examines the costs of the opioid crisis related to the criminal justice system (CJS) in Pennsylvania.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigator: Gary Zajac, Ph.D., Managing Director Criminal Justice Research Center (gxz3@psu.edu)
  • Co-Investigator: Derek Kreager, Ph.D., Department of Sociology & Criminology and Glenn Sterner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Penn State Abington
  • Researcher: Sam Nur, BA

About the Project

  • This project was requested by the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General (POAG) in support of a lawsuit that involves the POAG and numerous other states against the pharmaceutical industry to recoup damages to state governments caused by the opiate crisis and related over use of prescription pharmaceuticals.  
  • This project engaged multiple subject matter teams throughout the university, in areas including public health, insurance, child welfare, education, and criminal justice.  The latter was led by the Criminal Justice Research Center.
  • The opioid crisis has made financial impacts across all levels of the public sector. This project focuses on costs related to the criminal justice system (CJS) in Pennsylvania. Costs impacting 3 principal areas of the CJS are examined: opioid-related arrests, court costs, and incarceration. Analysis of the state-level CJS is our main focus; no local-level costs are included.
  • Through this examination, costs of the opioid crisis for the period of 2007 to 2016 were estimated using opioid costs for 2006 as a baseline. Total costs to the Pennsylvania CJS during this period were over $526 million, with most of that accounted for by state corrections.

Research Questions

  • What is the estimate of the financial impact of the opioid crisis on the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania (state policing, courts and corrections) over the past several decades?

Project Details

  • Submitted report on criminal justice system costs to Dennis Scanlon, the overall project lead at Health Policy and Administration. Overall report (on costs in all policy domains) submitted to the POAG in early April of 2018.

Implications

  • This project may lead to expanded efforts in the future to estimate costs nationally.

Final Report