Can Transportation Subsidies Reduce Failures to Appear in Criminal Court? Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial
23 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 22, 2021
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. We find little evidence that transportation subsidies reduce FTAs. The treatment group had a similar FTA rate as the control group, and we can rule out with 95% confidence that transit subsidies reduced the FTA rate by more than six percentage points. While transportation subsidies might be more effective in reducing FTAs if combined with other supportive services or outreach, our results suggest that transportation subsidies alone have limited 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: Suggested Citation