UPenn Law: Fewer Stays, Fewer Days: The Bronx Defenders and How Holistic Defense Reduces Mass Incarceration

“In 2019, the Harvard Law Review published a quantitative study by researchers from the RAND Corporation and Penn Law’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice entitled “The Effects of Holistic Defense on Criminal Justice Outcomes.” They compared with the traditional model of public defense with the holistic model practiced by the Bronx Defenders (BxD). Located in the South Bronx and staffed by criminal and civil lawyers, non-attorney advocates, social workers, and investigators, BxD practices an interdisciplinary form of lawyering that addresses the full range of issues low-income clients experience in connection with criminal charges. The researchers found that BxD’s holistic defense model reduced the number of clients serving custodial sentences by 16% and the length of custodial stays by 24% or 9.5 days without increasing recidivism or compromising public safety. Thus, the model has significant implications for reducing the harms of mass incarceration and the inefficient expenditure of tax dollars on corrections. The video “Fewer Stays, Fewer Days” goes behind the numbers to explain what holistic defense is, how it reduces unnecessary incarceration, and what other public defense organizations can do to achieve similar results.”

Watch the full video here