Why It Matters

When poor people miss court, they do not flee. Instead, they miss court because they lack transportation, could not take time off work, never received the reminder, had to care for their children, or simply don’t keep a good calendar.

When someone fails to appear (FTA) to court, an arrest warrant is issued. The next time they encounter the police, they are jailed for at least a day and up to one month. The FTA has downstream consequences as well - at every subsequent appearance, they are less likely to be released. Even validated risk assessments fail to take into account the reason why someone may have missed court in the past.

Nationally, approximately one million people miss court dates each year. Counties spend over $9b on unnecessary pretrial incarceration, and an additional $1b issuing and enforcing FTAs.