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Setting Up for Success: Improving Defendant's Court Appearance Rates with Behaviorally-Informed Pretrial Notification Protocols

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $249,071)

In partnership with the Administrative Office of the Courts and Pretrial Services, the applicant proposes a process, impact, and cost evaluation of Kentucky’s statewide pretrial court notification system with alternate contact and message options. Research will occur in Kentucky where pretrial detention rates are historically high and a new multi-method notification system (text versus call) was introduced in April 2018; protocol testing will be staged in five local jurisdictions that vary in geographic and socioeconomic ways.

The broad research question is, what court notification protocol is the most cost-efficient? At issue are communication method (call, text, etc.), message content (warning), number and frequency of contact, case type (traffic, criminal), and other considerations.

Other research questions include: what factors explain failure to appear (FTA) and need to be considered to maximize efficacy given defendant needs; what case variables mediate or moderate protocol effects; and what program and jurisdiction resources would support bringing design manipulations to scale statewide? Research methods include: 1) process and intent-to-treat impact evaluation of current opt-in text message notification protocol to document baseline measures of FTA for current protocols; 2) a series of regional randomized controlled trial (RCT) pilot studies to examine how text message reminders of varying design may optimize outcomes; and 3) cost analysis of extant versus new/optional protocols. Data on defendants, cases, and release conditions, warrants, etc. will be collected 12 months preceding and following implementation; cost analyses will examine protocol, warrant, and detention costs.

Pretrial interviews and follow-up calls will be supplemented with research questions on FTA challenges and solutions. During site visits, the researchers will interview stakeholders and train pretrial staff on randomization and notification protocols; power analysis indicates 3,248 subjects per site is required for pilot studies.

Proposed work products include a webinar for practitioners, and they plan to disseminate nationwide through National Association of Court Management, MacArthur Foundation, and Pretrial Justice Institute media outlets.

"Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).


Date Created: August 31, 2018