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Notable Recent Publications, July 2023

Notable Recent Publications features the latest empirical research and data related to indigent defense. Should you have suggestions, ideas for work that should be included, or trouble accessing any of the articles featured, please write to



Robin Steinberg, with contributions by Camilo Ramirez, The Courage of Compassion: A Journey from Judgment to Connection. (Optimism Press). 
[From the website:]  "[N]o one, says Robin Steinberg, should be reduced to their worst moment. From the founder and CEO of The Bail Project, The Courage of Compassion unveils how we can reimagine justice through compassion. Steinberg shares her journey as a public defender, representing people at precisely that time in their lives -- their own worst moment. She recounts the heart-wrenching stories of her clients and invites us to interrogate our fears and beliefs about justice and punishment. Lastly, Steinberg reveals moments when she questioned her own capacity for compassion, as well as her ability to fight for better, more humane justice from within a system that is riddled with holes and seemingly interminable problems."


Alex Chohlas-Wood, Madison Coots, Joe Nudell, Julian Nyarko, Emma Brunskill, Todd Rogers, and Sharad Goe, Automated Reminders Reduce Incarceration for Missed Court Dates: Evidence from a Text Message Experiment
In partnership with the Santa Clara County Public Defender Office, we randomly assigned 5,206 public defender clients to either receive automated text message reminders (treatment) or not receive reminders (control). We found the reminders reduced warrants issued for missed court dates by approximately 20%, with 12.3% of clients in the control condition issued a warrant compared to 9.9% of clients in the treatment condition. We further found that incarceration from missed court dates dropped by a similar amount, from 5.7% in the control condition to 4.4% in the treatment condition. Our results illustrate the promise of automated reminders to reduce the negative consequences of missing court.

Heather M. Harris, The Impact of Remote Hearing Policies on Racial Equity in Criminal Case Outcomes During the Pandemic.
Using data for all arrests and criminal case dispositions that occurred in California between 2018 and mid-2021, I characterize the impact the pandemic had on arrest and case resolution rates, estimate the impact of adopting policies to permit remote hearings on conviction and sentencing outcomes, and determine which factors contributed to racial differences in outcomes. Remote hearing policies contributed to racial inequalities in outcomes, which predated the pandemic and persisted amid it.

Johanna Lacoe, Brett Fischer and Steven Raphael. The Effect of Pre-Arraignment Legal Representation on Criminal Case Outcomes. National Bureau of Economic Research, working paper #31289.
Focusing on a pilot program in a large urban county, we estimate the causal impact of early representation by a public defender on release and case outcomes, leveraging quasi-random variation in access to counsel pre-arraignment. Low-income individuals who met with a public defender shortly after arrest were 28 percentage points more likely to be released pretrial, and 36 percent more likely to see their cases dismissed, relative to otherwise similar individuals who would first meet with a public defender at their arraignment. (See also this policy brief by the authors).