Can Transportation Subsidies Reduce Failures to Appear in Criminal Court? Evidence from a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

15 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2021 Last revised: 20 Jan 2022

See all articles by Rebecca Brough

Rebecca Brough

University of Notre Dame

Matthew Freedman

University of California, Irvine - Department of Economics

Daniel E. Ho

Stanford Law School

David Phillips

Wilson Sheehan Lab for Econonomic Opportunities, Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2022

Abstract

The failure to appear (FTA) for a scheduled court hearing can have serious consequences for a criminal defendant. Many have speculated that transportation is a material barrier to court appearance. We provide evidence from the first randomized controlled trial of transportation subsidies to reduce FTAs, conducted jointly with public defenders and the transportation authority in Seattle, Washington. The most intensive intervention was a transit card providing 2-3 months of free public transportation. While the experiment is underpowered due to COVID-19 disruptions, our pilot results allow us to bound the treatment effect and derive estimates of cost effectiveness under alternative assumptions. Our results suggest that transportation subsidies alone do not have large benefits for this aspect of criminal justice.

Keywords: failure to appear, criminal justice, public defense, transportation subsidies, public transit

JEL Classification: K41, K42, R41, R48

Suggested Citation

Brough, Rebecca and Freedman, Matthew and Ho, Daniel E. and Phillips, David, Can Transportation Subsidies Reduce Failures to Appear in Criminal Court? Evidence from a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial (January 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3832463 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3832463

Rebecca Brough

University of Notre Dame ( email )

361 Mendoza College of Business
Notre Dame, IN 46556-5646
United States

Matthew Freedman (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Economics ( email )

3151 Social Science Plaza
Irvine, CA 92697-5100
United States

Daniel E. Ho

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-723-9560 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://dho.stanford.edu

David Phillips

Wilson Sheehan Lab for Econonomic Opportunities, Department of Economics ( email )

361 Mendoza College of Business
Notre Dame, IN 46556-5646
United States

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