Examining the Effectiveness of Indigent Defense Team Services: A Multisite Evaluation of Holistic Defense in Practice, Kentucky, Minnesota, Rhode Island, 2015-2018 (ICPSR 37361)

Version Date: May 25, 2021 View help for published

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Brian J. Ostrom, National Center for State Courts


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The goals of this project were to: describe the implementation of holistic defense principles in three indigent defense programs; measure each program's impact on pretrial court practices, manner of disposition, sentencing, and other case outcomes; and explore an appropriate methodology to assess the cost-efficiency of these programs in comparison with traditional criminal defense practice. Researchers collected data on both holistic and traditional defense delivery via interviews, surveys, focus groups, observation during site visits, and administrative data from public defender and court information systems. This evaluation was conducted in three research sites: Rhode Island Public Defender (Providence office); Minnesota Public Defender (Minneapolis office); and the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy (Bowling Green office). The evaluation focused on adult criminal cases. A process evaluation examined how holistic defense has been implemented in each site. The impact evaluation used a quasi-experimental design that includes matched comparison groups and alternative statistical models to examine the relative impact of holistic defense on a range of outcomes, controlling for defendant characteristics. The project investigated the parameters necessary to conduct a cost-efficiency analysis within the context of holistic defense and, to the extent possible, began to estimate the costs/benefits of holistic defense services. In addition to data sets for archiving and a summary report to NIJ, anticipated work products include professional conference presentations, manuscripts for submission to professional journals, and research briefs.

Ostrom, Brian J. Examining the Effectiveness of Indigent Defense Team Services: A Multisite Evaluation of Holistic Defense in Practice, Kentucky, Minnesota, Rhode Island, 2015-2018. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2021-05-25. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37361.v1

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2012-R2-CX-0011)


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Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2016-06-01 -- 2017-06-12
2015-07-01 -- 2018-07-29
  1. Within the quantitative data, individual counties and individuals were given an anonymized number.


The primary purpose of this study was to examine (1) how indigent defense providers have implemented the principles of holistic defense in practice, (2) how holistic defense practices vary among providers, (3) what factors have facilitated or impeded implementation of holistic defense practices, and (4) to analyze, drawing on client-level data, the influence that holistic defense practices have on case outcomes for holistic defense clients as compared to traditional public defense.

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) evaluated the implementation of holistic defense practices at three public defender offices: the Department of Public Advocacy in Bowling Green, Kentucky; the Hennepin County Public Defender in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the Rhode Island Public Defender in Providence County, Rhode Island.

In all offices, on-site interviews were performed with attorneys, judges, social workers, investigators, and others with knowledge of practices at the site. Following the interviews, a survey of attitudes toward holistic defense and perception of practices at the site was administered. Only limited data on cases and outcomes was available from each of the public defender offices, restricting the scope of empirical analyses conducted. However, in Hennepin and two adjacent Minnesota counties, administrative data was provided by the Minnesota Supreme Court and Minnesota Sentencing Commission that allowed for a comprehensive analysis comparing client outcomes among holistic public defense, traditional public defense, and private counsel. In addition, client interviews were conducted to compare client perspective on the quality of representation between the holistic model of representation in Hennepin County and more traditional public defense in neighboring Ramsey County.

Longitudinal: Trend / Repeated Cross-section


2021-05-25 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Performed consistency checks.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

An administrative case weight is needed for the Rhode Island administrative data set. In order to account for missing data, variable CASEWEIGHT was calculated to reflect the true case load. This weight should be applied to the data when examining case types of the defendants. Also, Minnesota Sentence Analysis data set contains two weight variables; INVPRBWGT_PD (Weight used for the sentencing analysis) and INVPRBWGT_JURIS (Weight used for the sentencing analysis).



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