Panel Paper: Holistic Public Defense: A Randomized Control Trial

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Lobby Level, Director's Row H (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sarah Buchanan, Knox County Public Defenders Community Law Office, April Faith-Slaker, Harvard University and James Greiner, Harvard Law School

The Social Work in Public Defense Study seeks to rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of a holistic defense approach. The study relies on a randomized control trial methodology which assigns 2,200 individuals to receive either social services within the public defense context or to not receive such services. Study participants will be tracked for up to three years to gather outcome data related to recidivism, employment and housing. Additionally, through a double randomized methodology, lawyer triage decision-making will be studied in order to understand how and when legal professionals are able to make decisions related to the allocation of scarce resources (such as social workers) to improve outcomes for their clients. This study represents an importantly rigorous evaluation in the indigent defense arena and the authors will discuss the need for more randomized control trial studies in the legal field.