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

23 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2021

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: April 22, 2021

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. 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

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 Randomized Controlled Trial (April 22, 2021). 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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