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Reducing Failure to Appear in Court
Last registered on June 25, 2018

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Reducing Failure to Appear in Court
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0003098
Initial registration date
June 25, 2018
Last updated
June 25, 2018 2:59 PM EDT
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Harvard University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Harvard University
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2018-03-13
End date
2021-04-12
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Failure to appear for court dates for low-level offenses remains high, which results in legal consequences for defendants and costs for the criminal justice system. This randomized controlled trial evaluates the effects of several interventions to increase successful court date resolutions: postcard reminders, SMS reminders, and SMS reminders with an invitation to ask court staff questions. Reminders will include useful details such as case number and court location, as well as additional information about the court system, its rules, and amenities. The study sample includes all individuals in the Traffic Courts, Misdemeanor Courts or Municipal Violations Courts who had not already resolved their ticket two weeks ahead of their court date. The proposed analysis will evaluate the interventions and explore the groups for whom it was differentially helpful. In addition, the study design will allow us to understand whether human help in navigating the court system is helpful above and beyond the low-cost informational interventions.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Emanuel, Natalia and Helen Ho. 2018. "Reducing Failure to Appear in Court." AEA RCT Registry. June 25. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3098-1.0.
Former Citation
Emanuel, Natalia and Helen Ho. 2018. "Reducing Failure to Appear in Court." AEA RCT Registry. June 25. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3098/history/31180.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Treated individuals receive reminders of their court date.

In the basic SMS reminder treatments, individuals receive texts with information about their court date and accomodations. In the SMS+ treatment, defendants are also invited to text their questions or accommodation requests to court staff. In both of these treatments, defendants receive texts 14, 7, and 1 day prior to the court date.

Those who do not have phone numbers listed but do have an address are randomly assigned to receive a postcard containing basic information about their court date and accomodations.
Intervention Start Date
2018-03-13
Intervention End Date
2019-03-29
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Outcome of first arraignment, outcome of subsequent court dates for the same case, and final case disposition.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Outcomes of court appearances include fine paid ahead of the court date, appeared in court, and failure to appear and/or pay ahead.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Fines and fees assessed, use of a payment plan, use of rescheduling option, warrants, jail stays, future criminal, municipal, and traffic charges in the county. We will use text analysis to analyze the content of text conversation between defendants and court staff. Potential secondary outcomes: evictions, state-level criminal records
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Future criminal justice involvement will be measured over two years.
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We split the sample by availability of contact information. Those with phone numbers will be randomly selected to the SMS treatment groups or control groups. Those without phone numbers, but with addresses will be randomly selected to the postcard treatment or control group. Randomization occurs within day and location of arraignment strata. Those who have already been randomized will receive the same treatment for the subsequent case.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Randomization at the individual level.
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
N/A
Sample size: planned number of observations
90,000
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
50,000 total in the SMS sample (1/2 control, 1/4 treatment 1, 1/4 treatment 2), 40,000 total in the postcard sample (1/2 control, 1/2 treatment).
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
We would like to detect effects within each of the three courtrooms: criminal, municipal, and traffic. The following are calculations based on the outcome of failure to appear on the first arraignment. ---Sample size required for each treatment vs. control--- Criminal -postcard: control mean = 0.18, treatment arm size required for 18% treatment effect: 1586 -SMS: control mean = 0.17, treatment arm size required for 18% treatment effect: 1667 Municipal -postcard: control mean = 0.34 treatment arm size required for 18% treatment effect: 664 -SMS: control mean = 0.29, treatment arm size required for 18% treatment effect: 859 Traffic -postcard: control mean = 0.18, treatment arm size required for 18% treatment effect: 1507 -SMS: control mean = 0.14, treatment arm size required for 18% treatment effect: 859 ---Sample Size Required for SMS Treatment vs. SMS+ Treatment--- Criminal: SMS treatment arm mean: 0.14, treatment arm size required for 18% treatment effect: 1828 Municipal: SMS treatment arm mean: 0.24, treatment arm size required for 18% treatment effect: 975 Traffic: SMS treatment arm mean: 0.11, treatment arm size required for 18% treatment effect: 2343
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Harvard University Committee on the Use of Human Subjects
IRB Approval Date
2017-08-14
IRB Approval Number
IRB17-0960
Analysis Plan

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