TULSA, Oklahoma. More judges across the country are using a proprietary computer algorithm to determine how long convicted individuals should go to jail. According to EPIC.org, the algorithm claims to be able to predict future violent or criminal behavior. It runs a risk assessment on an individual and helps judges in sentencing and in setting bail. The public cannot scrutinize the algorithm, because the company claims its method is proprietary. What factors may these algorithms consider? Some believe they examine a person’s family history, age, sex, location, and employment status. Individuals who are sentenced using the algorithm are not able to question the results or even to challenge them. Some claim that the use of these algorithms is unconstitutional.
According to the New York Times, when a man was arrested after trying to flee the police, he was sentenced to six years in prison. Normally, the crime for which he had been convicted carries no prison time. However, the algorithm found him to be a high risk. Many believe that the use of this algorithm is unconstitutional. However, when the case was brought before the Supreme Court, it was dismissed.
The issue is complex. Supporters of the computer algorithm claim that it takes human bias out of the picture. Judges, on their own, might have biases against a person due to their race or gender. By using the computer program, a person’s sentencing is not left up to an individual’s discretion. However, the algorithm appears to use factors, such as a person’s location, gender, and age, which, depending on the weight that each factor is given, could have a huge impact on a person’s sentencing. The algorithm has been designed by humans who also may be building their own biases into how the algorithm works.
Algorithms need to be “trained” using data. Recidivism data may have been used to “train” the algorithm. However, if black individuals are more likely to be stopped by police, they may have unfairly higher inflated recidivism rates in the algorithm. If white individuals are more likely to be let off with a warning, their recidivism rates may be lower. In fact, some computer science researchers note that if an algorithm’s errors are not corrected early enough, the algorithm’s biases can become entrenched.
The question we may need to be asking ourselves is this: do we want judges crafting sentences or do we want computer programmers doing this?
Until higher courts revisit the use of computer algorithms in legal cases, these programs may continue to be used for some time. If you are facing criminal charges in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the best way to avoid having your fate determined by a computer program is to fight your charges. You are, after all, innocent until proven guilty. The Henson Law Firm, P.L.L.C. are criminal defense lawyers who work closely with individuals facing criminal charges in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Much is at stake if you have been charged with a crime. Protect your rights today. Visit our local criminal law firm at https://myoklahomadefenselawyer.com.