Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 19:1 (2013), pp. 70–80; doi: 10.1037/a0026293


Copyright © 2012 American Psychological Association. Used by permission.


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.