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
Date Written: January 2022
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: Suggested Citation