Analysis of Criminal Court Case Outcomes Among Indigent Defendants in McLennan County, Texas
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The indigent defense system in the United States has been criticized for its unfair treatment of criminal defendants below a certain poverty level. This thesis employs statistical methods to analyze whether or not indigent defendants in McLennan County are dealt worse consequences than defendants who can afford to hire an attorney. I utilize ordinary least squares and logistic regressions in order to analyze the effect of various variables on sentence length, conviction rates, and the likelihood of a plea agreement. I specifically analyze the effect of indigence on these outcome variables. I also conduct a regression discontinuity design to explore whether defendants on either side of the indigence cutoff face longer sentence lengths and more convictions. My results indicate that indigent defendants may in fact encounter worse outcomes than non-indigent defendants, showing that our indigent defense system may be in need of some substantial change.