Let’s take the example of the SOS Project in the UK, which uses peer mentors to support people who have been to prison, thereby reducing rates of re-offending. 2 In the UK, it costs £70,000 a year to keep someone in prison. The rate of re-offending is 70% – in other words, 70% of people who are released from prison will re-offend within 3 years, and once again be back in jail. The SOS Project is able to lower the rate of prisoner re-offending from 70% down to 20%; it is one of the most effective interventions of its kind in the world.
For every 100 former offenders who receive peer mentorship and support from SOS, 20 will no longer re-offend, compared with a national average of 70. SOS can therefore credibly claim to have prevented 50 individuals from going back to prison, at an annual cost to the taxpayer of £3million per year (50 x £60,000 per year = £3 million). Over the next decade, the impact on society would be £30 million.
If the cost of supporting 100 clients is £500,000 per year for SOS, and they prevent 50 clients per year from re-offending, then SOS can claim that the leveraged impact of investing £500,000 in them is £30million over the course of the decade, a 60:1 level of impact.
That’s an impressive statistic to be able to offer to potential investors.
Of course, this monetary value is a very crude approximation of the true impact of this program. It doesn’t measure the improvement in the individuals’ lives, the families that are rebuilt, the crimes that are prevented, the improved safety of society and many other impacts that are either not measurable or excluded from this simple calculation. It also has a lot of assumptions built into it – the expected prison sentence, the time between being released from prison and being caught for reoffending, etc. But it is a start, and a helpful first approximation.