Tuesday, June 13, 2017

When a Computer Program Keeps You in Jail; New York Times, June 13, 2017

Rebecca Wexler, New York Times; When a Computer Program Keeps You in Jail

"The criminal justice system is becoming automated. At every stage — from policing and investigations to bail, evidence, sentencing and parole — computer systems play a role. Artificial intelligence deploys cops on the beat. Audio sensors generate gunshot alerts. Forensic analysts use probabilistic software programs to evaluate fingerprints, faces and DNA. Risk-assessment instruments help to determine who is incarcerated and for how long.

Technological advancement is, in theory, a welcome development. But in practice, aspects of automation are making the justice system less fair for criminal defendants.

The root of the problem is that automated criminal justice technologies are largely privately owned and sold for profit. The developers tend to view their technologies as trade secrets. As a result, they often refuse to disclose details about how their tools work, even to criminal defendants and their attorneys, even under a protective order, even in the controlled context of a criminal proceeding or parole hearing."

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