A photo of an empty courtroom showing the judge's bench, a witness stand, and the jury box

Three North Carolina counties are implementing policy solutions to reduce failures to appear in court through a project supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the University of North Carolina School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab, with technical assistance from the Crime and Justice Institute.

Beginning in August 2021, the North Carolina Court Appearance Project brought together teams of diverse stakeholders from New Hanover, Orange, and Robeson counties to identify factors that contribute to individuals failing to appear for criminal court dates and develop strategies to address them. A new report details the findings from that process, as well as the proposed policy solutions.

Strategies for reducing failures to appear, sometimes referred to as FTAs, focus on helping people understand the need to appear in court and remember their hearing dates, addressing barriers to appearing, making courts more user-friendly, building community trust, and reducing collateral harms.

To develop those strategies, project teams from each county analyzed available data showing which demographic groups were failing to appear in each county, and which criminal charges resulted in higher instances of missing court dates. Each team then developed a number of policy solutions tailored to the needs and resources of their counties.

CJI staff were deeply involved in every aspect of the project from initial research, to leading stakeholder interviews and discussion groups, to drafting the final report.