Roundtable: Randomized Evaluations in the Criminal Justice and Legal System
(Crime, Justice, and Drugs)

Thursday, November 8, 2018: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Taylor - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Moderators:  Emma Rackstraw, J-PAL North America (MIT)
Speakers:  Amanda Agan, Rutgers University, Aurelie Ouss, University of Pennsylvania, Tara Anderson, San Francisco District Attorney's Office and Christopher Griffin, University of Arizona

Many individuals – disproportionately people of color and those living in poverty – struggle to navigate the complex and fractured criminal and civil legal system in the United States. Policymakers and practitioners such as prosecutors and public defenders, court administrators, police, and legal services organizations are experimenting with reforms intended to improve citizens' interactions with these systems while enhancing public safety. 


Researchers are partnering with these entities to evaluate these reforms, quantifying their impact and insuring against unintended consequences. Though retrospective studies of past reforms detailing such consequences are relatively common, prospective evaluations of reforms to the system are few and far between, in part because of the unique feasibility and ethics concerns for evaluations within the criminal justice and legal system.


This roundtable will highlight examples of completed and ongoing randomized evaluations within the criminal justice and legal system, including evaluations of criminal record expungement, pretrial risk assessment,[1] prosecutorial diversion,[2] and informational and behavioral interventions to reduce failure to appear in court.[3] The speakers will share lessons learned from the design, implementation, and results (if applicable) of these studies made possible by partnerships across academic researchers, policymakers, and practitioners.


[1] Access to Justice Lab. “Current Projects.”  

[2] Weinstein Miller, Katherine. “Guest Post: Evaluating Make it Right.”  

[3] Cooke, Brice, Binta Zahra Diop, Alissa Fishbane, Jonathan Hayes, Aurelie Ouss, and Anuj Shah. 2018. “Using Behavioral Science to Improve Criminal Justice Outcomes: Preventing Failures to Appear in Court.”

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