Beyond Bail: Using Behavioral Science to Improve Timely Court Appearance
Last registered on June 16, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Beyond Bail: Using Behavioral Science to Improve Timely Court Appearance
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0002143
Initial registration date
June 15, 2017
Last updated
June 16, 2017 3:28 PM EDT
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
University of Chicago Crime Lab
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
ideas42
PI Affiliation
University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2016-03-01
End date
2018-10-01
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In 2014, nearly 40% of individuals issued a ticket for a violation in New York City did not show up to court, and were issued an arrest warrant as a result. Given this stiff penalty, it might seem that people would only miss court if they deliberately chose to do so. But a behavioral approach suggests other reasons why people might miss court: they might have simply forgotten or engaged in “ostrich behavior.” If these behavioral bottlenecks account for some failures to appear (FTA), then it may be possible to reduce FTA without resorting to the usual strict penalties. With our partners in New York City, we are testing whether various text message reminders can reduce FTA. We have designed several reminders, and we have been conducting a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to determine whether these messages can help, and which are most helpful. Over the course of approximately 12 months, summons recipients will be randomized into one of eight treatment arms. We will use administrative court data and (pending approval) police data to assess the efficacy of the messaging program in general and which message content in particular is most effective in reducing FTA.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Fishbane, Alissa, Aurelie Ouss and Anuj Shah. 2017. "Beyond Bail: Using Behavioral Science to Improve Timely Court Appearance." AEA RCT Registry. June 16. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2143/history/18675
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
New York City summons recipients who provided phone numbers on their summons forms and whose case passed the standard pre-hearing court reviews on technical and legal grounds will be eligible to receive text messages, to help them show up in court and avoid failing to appear in court (FTA). They will be randomized into one of eight groups:

C Control group [No messages at any time]
T1.1 Consequences messages [three messages before the scheduled court date]
T1.2 T1 + one consequences post-FTA message, conditional on an FTA for the scheduled court date
T2.1 Plan-making messages [three messages before the scheduled court date]
T2.2 T2 + one consequences post-FTA message, conditional on an FTA for the scheduled court date
T3 A combination of consequences and plan-making messages [three messages before the scheduled court date]
T4 One social norms post-FTA message, conditional on an FTA on the scheduled court date
T5 One consequences post-FTA message, conditional on an FTA for the scheduled court date
Intervention Start Date
2016-03-01
Intervention End Date
2017-09-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The key outcome of interest is failure to appear in court. Conditional on having the appropriate authorizations in place, we will also be using NYPD arrest data in order to look at arrest outcomes.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Failure to appear will be measured in 2 ways:

• Not showing up to court on their expected court date.
• Not showing up within 1 month of one’s court date.

For messages received before one’s court date, FTA will be measured as “Not showing up to court on one’s expected court date,” (main outcome) and “Not showing up within 1 month of one’s court date.”

For messages received after one’s court date, FTA will be measured as “Not showing up within 1 month of one’s court date.”
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Randomized Controlled Trial:
Anyone in New York City who has been issued a revised summons form by the New York Police Department (NYPD) and provided a cell phone number will be included in the study. People who did not provide a cell phone number will not be part of the study. We will compare the treatment group FTA outcomes to the control group FTA outcomes as well as outcomes across treatment groups.
Experimental Design Details
For more details on our experimental design, please see sections "2. Main Hypotheses" through sections "9. Exploratory analyses." in the full pre-analysis plan.
Randomization Method
Randomization is done by a program in the New York OCA office as new summons forms are received.
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
NA
Sample size: planned number of observations
Approximately 20,000 summons recipients.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Approximately 2,500 summons recipients per treatment arm.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
20K total 8 treatment arms of 2,500 31.8% base FTA rate Estimated experimental-group proportion for a two-sample proportions test Pearson's chi-squared test Ho: p2 = p1 versus Ha: p2 > p1 Study parameters: alpha = 0.0500 power = 0.8000 N = 5000 N per group = 2,500 p1 = 0.3180 Estimated effect size and experimental-group proportion: delta = 0.0332 (difference) p2 = 0.3512
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
University of Chicago Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
2016-02-05
IRB Approval Number
IRB150206
Analysis Plan

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Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers