Transforming Access to Justice
An Evaluation of Collaborative Public Defense
Each year, more than 5 million people are arrested and jailed, with one out of every four arrested more than once in that year. 1 in 37 Americans is currently under correctional supervision of some kind, and an estimated 45% of Americans have an immediate family member who has been incarcerated. In short, mass incarceration isn’t a problem impacting a small minority: it’s a profoundly widespread American crisis.
Every day, people facing criminal charges encounter challenges which can rapidly escalate to become life-altering problems. Partners for Justice (PFJ) trains non-attorney Advocates to collaborate with public defenders under the collaborative defense model, ultimately providing clients with wraparound support as well as desirable legal outcomes, all without compromising community safety. Through a randomized controlled trial, implemented by PFJ offices in Los Angeles, our research team will deepen the current understanding of collaborative defense’s impact on outcomes such as pretrial detention, sentencing severity, case dismissals, and the uptake of social services.
Partners for Justice and Stanford Law School share a commitment to improving the criminal-justice system through rigorous evaluation and experimentation. By combining a gold-standard randomized study design with decades of research experience in the complex criminal justice space, our project will decisively advance scientific knowledge on collaborative defense. Additionally, if the intervention proves successful, our findings could lead to widespread adoption of the collaborative defense model, attract additional funding to further PFJ’s mission, and reduce the costs of the carceral cycle for defendants and taxpayers alike.