Research / Themes / Innovation / Field experiments in justice

Our contribution to work relating to justice innovation has centered on problems of discretion, action research (in which subjects and researchers are collaborators) and methodology that responds to problems of developing and measuring methodology. A major emphasis has been on judicial decision-making problems of bail, pretrial release and detention in law and practice because of the importance of this liberty decision to the public, system and defendant. The development and testing of pretrial release guidelines in Miami, Boston, Phoenix and Philadelphia has been a center piece of this kind of research. The first work in judicial discretion at the bail stage was conducted through a randomly controlled experiment. The focus on judicial reform of bail practices lead naturally to the development and testing of alternatives to adjudication, such as the development of drug courts, mental health courts, community courts and related court innovations—and even to participating in the design of Philadelphia’s new criminal courthouse. Another natural spin-off was to question the impact of policing strategies on the court system and public safety focusing on drugs. Our experience with 13 experiments over time in addressing attempts to innovate in the area of pretrial release and detention (and other areas) recently resulted in an article discussing some of the weakness of field experimentation, recently published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology.


Related faculty

John Goldkamp


Selected publications

Goldkamp, J.S. and E. R. Vîlcicã (2008). “Targeted Enforcement and Adverse System Side Effects: the Generation of Fugitives in Philadelphia. Criminology.

Goldkamp, J.S. and E.R. Vîlcicã (2008). “Judicial Discretion and the Unfinished Agenda of American Bail Reform: Lessons from Philadelphia’s Evidence-based Judicial Strategy.” 36 Studies in Law, Politics and Society (in press, Spring)

Goldkamp, J.S. (2008) “Missing the Target and Missing the Point: “Successful” Random Assignment but Misleading Results.” 4/2 Journal of Experimental Criminology.

Goldkamp, J.S. and Michael D. White (2006). “Restoring Accountability in Pretrial Release: the Philadelphia Pretrial Release Supervision Experiments.” 2/2 Journal of Experimental Criminology 143-181.

White, Michael D., J.S. Goldkamp and Jennifer B. Robinson (2006). “Acupuncture in Drug Treatment: Exploring its Role and Impact on Participant Behavior in the Drug Court Setting.” 2/1 Journal of Experimental Criminology 45-65.