Projects & Research


Data-Driven Public Defense

The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center works with public defenders to develop smart defense practices.   Across the country, public defenders and appointed counsel carry staggering caseloads in wildly underfunded systems.  Yet, these defenders are responsible for vindicating the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.   Using its “Stats and Stories” model, the Deason Center consults with defender offices to help them improve client outcomes through data-driven practices.  The Deason Center also  provides defenders with a range of technical support that improves the quality of indigent defense and models best practices for Sixth Amendment advocacy.

Indigent Defense Research Association (“IDRA”)

The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center serves as an incubator for the Indigent Defense Research Association (“IDRA”).  IDRA’s mission is to advance high-quality empirical research on the legal representation of people who are accused or convicted of crimes but are unable to afford a lawyer.   Bringing together researchers, defenders, and affected communities, IDRA gathers, analyze, and assesses data, using that to improve the quality of justice.

IDRA began in 2014 as an independent, virtual community of defenders, researchers, teachers, and policy analysts who shared a commitment to using data to improve the quality of public defense.  In July of 2017, the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center brought key IDRA participants to the SMU Dedman School of Law to plan IDRA’s future.  With the Deason Center’s support, IDRA has named a Board of Directors and has filed for 501(c)(3) status. IDRA maintains an active listserv of approximately 200 researchers, defense attorneys, criminal justice reform advocates, and community stakeholders.  IDRA holds monthly webinars calls, fields panels at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, and has produced two edited volumes of research in the ALBANY LAW REVIEW and the OHIO STATE JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW.