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Make or Buy? The Provision of Indigent Defense Services in the U.S

57 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2016 Last revised: 5 Dec 2017

Yotam Shem-Tov

University of California, Berkeley, College of Letters & Science, Department of Economics

Date Written: December 4, 2017

Abstract

U.S. courts provide constitutionally mandated legal services to indigent defendants via private court-appointed attorneys and public defenders' organizations. I investigate the relative efficacy of these two modes of indigent defense by comparing outcomes of co-defendants assigned either a public defender or a private court-appointed attorney within the same case. Using data from San Francisco and federal district courts, I argue and show empirically that in multiple defendant cases public defender assignment is as good as random. Estimates show that public defenders reduce the probability of any prison sentence by 22%, as well as the length of prison by 10%.

Keywords: Indegent defense, Criminal justice, Crime, Provision of public goods

JEL Classification: H44, K14, K42, J15

Suggested Citation

Shem-Tov, Yotam, Make or Buy? The Provision of Indigent Defense Services in the U.S (December 4, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2816622 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2816622

Yotam Shem-Tov (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley, College of Letters & Science, Department of Economics ( email )

Berkeley, CA
United States
5102804648 (Phone)
5102804648 (Fax)

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