The GIDEON Project



The GIDEON Project is the first research study of its kind in the United States.  It assesses whether reductions in indigent defense caseloads result in higher quality lawyering, and examines the impact of caseload changes on clients and their communities.


By 2023, New York State will increase indigent defense funding to $250 million annually. Approximately 80% of this funding is earmarked to help the state reduce public defender caseloads. This project began in 2019 as a large-scale, multi-site, longitudinal study. Through several years of data collection from public defender offices, the New York State Court system, and individual public defenders, this mixed-methods assessment will soon show how these caseload reductions impact defenders, defendants, and the larger criminal legal system in New York State.


Project Details

The project is conducted in partnership with indigent defense service providers in six counties. By accessing records from these research sites, we can track the changes that occur after caseloads are reduced. We also conduct interviews with staff, clients, District Attorneys and a range of judges across the counties about their observations and experiences. We also seek to watch court proceedings themselves to see the practical effect of the funding playing out in real time.


Research Questions

The project will collect data to track changes in indigent defense as resource levels increase. Questions of interest include:

  • Do defenders change the services they provide?

    We’ll compare activities such as investigation, client communication, and motion practice, before and after funding is received.

  • Do the outcomes of cases change?

    We will examine whether things like sentences, fines, bail decisions, or case dispositions change systematically.

  • Do clients’ lives change?

    Are clients more able to find employment, housing, and maintain the integrity of their families? Do clients’ opinions of the services they received improve or change?

  • Do courts, or the behaviors of people who work in them, change?

    We will observe courts in action and seek to talk to judges and prosecutors about the impact of the changes.


GIDEON Project Team

Dr. Andrew Davies

Research Director

Carlos Sanchez

Research Assistant

Celeste Echtey

Research Assistant