RAND Study on Holistic Defense in the News

A new study released today by RAND and the University of Pennsylvania Law School finds that The Bronx Defenders’ unique model of holistic defense significantly reduces incarceration rates, sentence length, and pre-trial detention, saving taxpayer dollars, without harming public safety. In total, the study estimates that The Bronx Defenders has saved its clients 1.1 million days behind bars.

The study, “The Effects of Holistic Defense on Criminal Justice Outcomes,” to be published in the Harvard Law Review, examined over half a million cases in Bronx Criminal Court over a 10-year period.

The study found that the implementation of BxD’s holistic public defender model in the Bronx:

  • helped clients avoid 1.1 million days of incarceration,
  • reduced incarceration rates by 16%,
  • cut pre-trial detention by 9%
  • shortened sentence length by 24%, and
  • saved New York taxpayers an estimated $165 million on housing costs alone.

Despite an appreciably higher release rate, those who received holistic defense services were shown to commit no more crime than those incarcerated for longer periods, in a follow-up spanning up to 10 years after case resolution. And while holistic defense does not reduce conviction rates, it does result in an increase of non-incarceratory sentences.

The Bronx Defenders, founded in 1997, pioneered holistic defense to address the issues that drive clients into the criminal legal system as well as mitigate the devastating consequences of that system involvement. To date, BxD has trained 54 public defender offices across 38 states and 5 countries that are seeking to adopt a more holistic model.

Read more about the study on The Marshall Project and WNYC; and tune in on Pod Saves the People at 23:00