Courts July 31, 2023

Understanding and Reframing an Individual’s Failure to Appear in Court

Shannon Magnuson, Senior Associate, Justice System Partners

Failure to appear in court is often a disproportionate driver of jail populations. It is important to understand it better and to reframe it, as part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC)—which is reducing jail populations across America. Justice System Partners (JSP), a technical assistance provider to the Safety and Justice Challenge, recently conducted an in-depth study about why people do not get to court as scheduled in Lake County, Illinois. Leadership there know even one night in jail can be disastrous for some people. It can lead to a host of negative consequences including loss of employment. But they saw bench warrants for missing court were also driving their jail population at a disparate rate. That is why they wanted to know more about why people miss court.