Giving Compass’ Take:
• Many New Yorkers who are summoned to court for minor infractions do not show up. In response to this, the city decided to portray the time and court date more clearly on the notifications, thinking this will get more individuals to show up for court.
• Findings from the University of Chicago Crime Lab revealed that behavioral science shows that the way information is presented to someone will impact their behavior. What other court proceedings or notifications within the justice system should be changed to encourage better human response?
Many New Yorkers who are summoned to court for a range of minor infractions — from littering to disorderly conduct — don’t realize that failing to appear in court on their designated date automatically sets in motion a warrant for their arrest. In 2014, 41% of the approximately 320,000 people issued a citation for a violation or low-level misdemeanor in New York did not take the required responsive action. Lowering the failure-to-appear rate would benefit both citizens and the city–it removes an otherwise significant burden on the individual and reduces unnecessary administrative and enforcement costs for the city.
We took a behavioral approach to exploring this problem, believing it unlikely that so many people were intentionally dismissing the importance of appearing in court, but rather that they didn’t have a strong grasp of the repercussions and had trouble fitting this one-time event into their daily lives. That’s why we partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the New York State Office of Court Administration, and the New York City Police Department to redesign the summons form to better prepare people to attend their court date.
The new form more prominently displays the time, date, and location of court appearances as well as consequences for not showing up to court. We know from behavioral science that the way information is presented affects behavior, and that held true in this context: a study of the new form’s impact, conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, revealed that it decreases the failure to appear rate by 13%.
Read the full article about behavioral science and the criminal justice system at ideas42.
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