Reducing courts' failure-to-appear rate by written reminders

Brian H. Bornstein, Alan J. Tomkins, Elizabeth M. Neeley, Mitchel N. Herian, Joseph A. Hamm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This article examines the effectiveness of using different kinds of written reminders to reduce misdemeanor defendants' failure-to-appear (FTA) rates. A subset of defendants was surveyed after their scheduled court date to assess their perceptions of procedural justice and trust and confidence in the courts. Reminders reduced FTA overall, and more substantive reminders (e.g., with information on the negative consequences of FTA) were more effective than a simple reminder. FTA varied depending on several offense and offender characteristics, such as geographic location (urban vs. rural), type of offense, and number of offenses. The reminders were somewhat more effective for Whites and Hispanics than for Blacks. Defendants with higher institutional confidence and those who felt they had been treated more fairly by the criminal justice system were more likely to appear, though the effectiveness of the reminder was greatest among misdemeanants with low levels of trust in the courts. The implications for public policy and pretrial services are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-80
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Criminal justice
  • Field experiment
  • Procedural justice
  • Public trust and confidence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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