Publication Library

Budding Change

Budding Change explores what happened when Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot (DA Creuzot) radically changed his office’s policies about the prosecution of first-time misdemeanor marijuana cases. The report concludes that DA Creuzot’s 2019 policies were associated with significant reductions in police enforcement of marijuana misdemeanor laws. As a result, marijuana screening caseloads within the District Attorney’s Office declined substantially. Budding Change shows that prosecutorial policies can have a profound impact on policing behaviors.

Metzger, P., Smiegocki, V., & Meeks, K., Budding Change: Marijuana Prosecution Policies and Police Practices in Dallas County, 2019, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (July 2021).

The ABCs of Racial Disparity

Data show that Black and White people use marijuana at roughly equal rates. Yet in 2018, in six of Dallas County's biggest cities, Black people were vastly overrepresented in the enforcement of low-level drug crimes. With a look at enforcement trends before the election of District Attorney John Creuzot, this study launches a series of reports about how his reforms have impacted Dallas County.

Metzger, P., Meeks, K., Smiegocki, V., Brown, K., & Davies, A. L. B., The ABCs of Racial Disparity: Enforcement of Low-Level Drug Crimes in Dallas County in 2018, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (May 2021).

Report: The Rural Texas Sheriff

The Rural Texas Sheriff reports on a focus group conducted in conjunction with the Center's 2019 Rural Criminal Justice Summit. The report places rural Texas sheriffs and their agencies in a national context. It also offers insight into the focus group's perceptions of rural law enforcement and jail management. With first-hand accounts of these sheriffs’ experiences, the report offers a compelling look at the personal and professional lives of Texas’ rural sheriffs.

The Rural Texas Sheriff, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (April 2021).

Article: The Court is in Recession: On the Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Indigent Defense Spending

How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact indigent defense budgets in the United States? During times of fiscal stress, redistributive policiespolicies that use taxpayer funds to support people who pay little or no taxes—are particularly susceptible to spending cuts. However, during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, Texas' indigent defense spending was generally stable, even in the hardest-hit counties.

Andrew Davies, Victoria Smiegocki, and Hannah Hall, The Court is in Recession: On the Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Indigent Defense Spending, __Ohio St. J. Crim.Law __ (2021) (forthcoming). 

Report: Series Preview: Screening and Charging Practices in Three Mid-Sized Jurisdictions

Understanding how prosecutors make their screening and charging decisions is essential to criminal legal reform. This preview report is the first in a series of publications that explores the screening and charging practices of prosecutors in three mid-sized jurisdictions. Through an innovative mixed-methods empirical study, the series provides a holistic account of prosecutors’ charging practices.  

Series Preview: Screening and Charging Practices in Three Mid-Sized Jurisdictions, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (February 2021).

Pamela Metzger

Op-Ed: Evidence-Based Paths towards Criminal Justice Reform

As recent events at the Capitol make clear, criminal legal reform is a moral and civic imperative for the new Biden administration. President Joe Biden ran, in part, on a promise of reducing the United States’ outsized reliance on incarceration, correctional supervision and fines and fees and committed himself to addressing systemic racism in the criminal system. Recent events have only increased the urgency for smart, compassionate criminal legal reforms that are based on empirical evidence, rather than on instinct or past practice....

Jon Gould and Pamela R. Metzger, Evidence-based Paths towards Criminal Justice Reform, The Hill, Feb. 26, 2021. 

Essay: COVID-19 and the Ruralization of U.S. Criminal Legal Systems

The COVID-19 pandemic is imposing typically rural practice constraints on the United States’ urban and suburban criminal court systems. This “ruralization” of criminal practice offers a window into the challenges and opportunities that inhere in rural systems. But for decades, lawmakers, researchers, reformers, and philanthropists have overlooked, undertheorized, and underfunded rural criminal legal systems—and have done so at great peril. Rural systems have decades of experience navigating (geographically) distanced criminal practice. By ignoring these rural practice adaptations, we have missed critical opportunities to learn about successful adaptations to distance-constrained criminal practice.

Pamela R. Metzger and Greg Guggenmos, COVID-19 and the Ruralization of U.S. Criminal Legal Systems, U. Chi. L. Rev. Online (Nov. 2020).

One-Pager: Greening the Desert

Greening the Desert brings a criminal justice lens to the phenomenon of STAR legal desertsvast areas with few, if any, practicing attorneys. This one-pager highlights key strategies to green these criminal law deserts. The full Greening the Desert report offers detailed examples and case studies that describe successful implementation of strategies to recruit, train, and retain STAR justice practitioners. An accompanying webinar explores the national landscape and chronicles how two STAR criminal lawyers found their way to rural practice.

Greening the Desert (One-Pager), Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (September 2020).

Resource: STAR Criminal Justice Bibliography

The STAR Criminal Justice Bibliography is a rich resource for STAR practitioners, policymakers, and communities. Updated annually, the bibliography provides a helpful summary of scholarship that addresses STAR criminal legal systems. The bibliography emphasizes research that can be readily translated into actionable reform by STAR lawyers, communities, and justice-impacted individuals. Topics of special interest include public defense innovations, technological adaptations, and juvenile justice and reentry programs that are tailored to the unique characteristics of STAR systems.

STAR Criminal Justice Bibliography, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (September 2020).

Report: Greening the Desert

Greening the Desert brings a criminal justice lens to the phenomenon of legal deserts in STAR communities—vast areas with few, if any, practicing attorneys. The report explores STAR criminal justice communities and describes strategies and initiatives to green these criminal law deserts. Using case studies, the report offers concrete examples of successful innovations. It also includes cautionary notes about risks that may arise with the implementation of strategies to recruit, train, and retain STAR practitioners. A companion  webinar explores the national landscape and chronicles how two STAR criminal lawyers found their way to rural practice.

 

 Metzger, P., Meeks, K., & Pishko, J., Greening the Desert: Strategies and Innovations to Recruit, Train, and Retain Criminal Law Practitioners for STAR Communities, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (Sept. 2020).

Op-Ed: What This Law Prof Has Learned about Rural Justice

I have a confession. Until 2016, I thought criminal justice reform meant urban criminal justice reform. I’d been to rural jurisdictions and worked in a rural prison.

But rural justice challenges seemed like brutal realities, not policy-driven injustices. One day in rural Louisiana, I learned that I was wrong....

Pamela R. Metzger, What This Law Prof Has Learned about Rural Justice, ABA Journal, Feb. 6, 2020. 

Article: Early Intervention by Counsel: A Multi-Site Evaluation of the Presence of Counsel at Defendants’ First Appearances in Court

This is the final report of an NIJ-funded evaluation of the impact of counsel at first appearance (CAFA) in Upstate New York. The evaluation demonstrates that CAFA changed bail practices in several jurisdictions. Before the CAFA program, criminal defendants were unrepresented when their bail was set. After  CAFA, the frequency with which defendants were required to post bail declined, as did the amount of bail that was demanded. Ancillary observations suggest CAFA may also increase access to counsel, expedite case dispositions, and produce cost savings.

Alissa Worden, Andrew Davies, Reveka Shteynberg, and Kirstin Morgan, Early Intervention by Counsel: A Multi-Site Evaluation of the Presence of Counsel at Defendants’ First Appearances in Court, National Institute of Justice (April 2020).

Article: Criminal (Dis)Appearance

Amid the national conversation about criminal legal reform, this article is the first scholarly work to address the initial appearance crisis. Criminal (Dis)Appearance describes an epidemic of detention-without-process and explores the legal landscape that produced it. The article describes the Supreme Court's commitment to a narrow Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and critiques the Court's rejection of early-stage criminal due process rights. The authors explain how substantive and procedural due process establish the right to a prompt and thorough initial appearance. 

Pamela R. Metzger and Janet C. Hoeffel, Criminal (Dis)Appearance, 88 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 392 (2020).

Article: Unique New York? Theorizing the Impact of Resources on the Quality of Defense Representation in a Deviant State

This article describes forthcoming reforms to indigent defense systems in the state of New York and interviews state leaders about their expectations of those reforms. Conceptualizing defense service quality in terms of “public value,” we offer new theoretical and empirical strategies to explore how increasing resources impact the quality of defense services.  The article lays the groundwork for an assessment of the reforms' impact and identifies key metrics to track. This is the first publication of the Deason Center’s Gauging Improvement in Defense Efforts and Outcomes in New York (GIDEON) project.  

Andrew Davies, Giza Lopes, and Alyssa Clark, Unique New York? Theorizing the Impact of Resources on the Quality of Defense Representation in a Deviant State, 31(6) Criminal Justice Policy Review 962 (2020).

Foreword: Introduction to Special Issue: New Developments in Public Defense Research

This is the foreword to a collection of empirical research about public defense, published under the auspices of the Indigent Defense Research Association (IDRA). Two overarching themes emerge. The first theme, “System Interventions: Evaluating Programs and Identifying Opportunities,” includes three studies of innovative policies and practices. The second theme, “Understanding Decision Makers,” includes four papers drawing on qualitative data. As a collection, these papers bridge gaps between theory and practice, offer new insight into public defense as a critical component of criminal legal systems, and identify new avenues for future research.

Janet Moore and Andrew Davies, Introduction to Special Issue: New Developments in Public Defense Research, 31(6) Criminal Justice Policy Review 791 (2020).

Article: The Impact of Counsel at First Appearance on Pretrial Release in Felony Arraignments: The Case of Rural Jurisdictions

This article assesses the impact of counsel at first appearance (CAFA) on bail outcomes in two rural upstate New York counties. The authors investigate three hypotheses about what occurs a defendant has counsel at their first appearances in court: (1) judges are more inclined to release a defendant on personal recognizance or under supervision, and (2) judges impose lower bail amounts, and (3) as a consequence, defendants spend less time detained before disposition. The authors find mixed support for these hypotheses, although some evidence that CAFA produces the expected outcomes. The authors conclude that the implementation of CAFA programs may be tempered by courthouse cultures and urge that future research on court reform include rural jurisdictions.

Alissa Worden, Reveka Shteynberg, Kirstin Morgan, and Andrew Davies, The Impact of Counsel at First Appearance on Pretrial Release in Felony Arraignments: The Case of Rural Jurisdictions, 31(6) Criminal Justice Policy Review 833 (2020). 

Op-Ed: Rural Justice Systems Low on Pretrial Resources Leave Some to Languish, Die

Trequelle Vann-Marcouex was just 18 years old when he hanged himself, after being trapped in the Wood County, Wisconsin jail, with no attorney to defend him.

Just days earlier, Vann-Marcouex appeared in court for the first time after his arrest. A teenager standing alone in his baggy jumpsuit, Vann-Marcouex asked the judge for help. He faced robbery charges and more than 60 years in prison.

He thought he would get a public defender and a shot at the equal justice he’d heard about in high school civics class…

Pamela R. Metzger, Rural Justice Systems Low on Pretrial Resources Leave Some to Languish, Die, USA Today, Dec. 13, 2019. 

Op-Ed: Why Rural Americans Struggle for Equal Justice

Drive from Amarillo, one of the biggest cities in West Texas, to Armstrong County, Texas, and you will enter a different world. Armstrong County, with fewer than than 2,000 people, is largely agricultural and, like many rural counties, substantially poorer than its urban neighbor, with a small local budget to match.

And, a report from the Sixth Amendment Center issued this month points out that the very sparseness of Armstrong County means that people arrested for crimes tend to have a very different experience with the criminal justice system than their urban Amarillo neighbors

Pamela R. Metzger, Why Rural Americans Struggle for Equal Justice, Dallas Morning News, Nov. 24, 2019. 

Op-Ed: Equal Justice Depends on Properly Funding Public Defenders

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) recently introduced the Equal Defense Act, which would boost resources for public defenders across the country. It offers a $250 million grant program on top of case limits for public defenders.

A longtime prosecutor, Harris understands that a fully functional and adequately funded public defender’s office is essential to the pursuit of justice and for ensuring safer communities and families...

Pamela R. Metzger, Equal Justice Depends on Properly Funding Public Defenders, The Hill, May 22, 2019. 

Article: Gideon in the Desert: An Empirical Study of Providing Counsel to Criminal Defendants in Rural Places

The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a continuing challenge in rural areas. This Article  describes an exploratory analysis of Texas data about rural and urban access to counsel, including rules governing the eligibility for appointed counsel services and the appointment-of-counsel rate. The authors report that appointment-of-counsel rates were significantly lower in rural counties.  Low lawyer populations were associated with especially low levels of access to counsel.  In contrast, the presence of an organized defense provider was associated with significantly higher rates of access to counsel. 

Andrew Davies and Alyssa Clark, Gideon in the Desert: An Empirical Study of Providing Counsel to Criminal Defendants in Rural Places71 Me. L. Rev. 245 (2019).