PROJECTCatalyst Grant Program



Open Austin

Democratizing Defense Data

Travis County, TX

Although defendants who cannot afford counsel must be awarded an attorney by the court, appointed attorneys are usually underpaid and overworked. Indigent defense offices often face complicated incentive structures at the county level, and a demonstrable lack of accountability leads to worse outcomes for defendants. A 2013 Texas bill required all counties to submit data identifying the number of indigent cases each attorney takes on and how much they are being paid. But these reports do not include any information about how frequently motions benefit defendants. In Texas, these circumstances particularly impact people of color, who are more likely than white defendants to rely on appointed counsel.  

With Catalyst Grant funding, Open Austin, in partnership with Fair Defense, will analyze criminal court data from counties across Texas and examine the performance of court-appointed lawyers. Open Austin will scrape and process case records and identify which counties and attorneys are more likely to act in ways that keep people out of jail. The intended outcome of the project will be to help move counties away from the independent-contractor model of indigent defense representation and toward a more robust institutional defense system.


2022 Grantees

Bexar County, TX

Alabama Appleseed
Jefferson County, AL

Baltimore Witness
Baltimore, MD

Casa San José
Allegheny County, PA

King County, WA

Equiticity Racial Equity Movement
Chicago, IL

Felony Murder Elimination Project
Los Angeles, CA

For The People
Los Angeles and Yolo Counties, CA

Gemeinschaft Home
Harrisonburg, VA

Health and Justice Recovery Alliance
Spokane, WA

Invisible Institute
Champaign County, IL

James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy
Cook County, IL

Milwaukee, WI

Kheprw Institute
Indianapolis, IN

Kilometro Cero
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Lone Star Justice Alliance
Dallas, TX

Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development
Dane County, WI

New York City Anti-Violence Project
New York, NY

One Love Global
Lansing, MI

Open Austin
Travis County, TX

New Orleans, LA