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Radio Atlantic: Crazy/Genius Season 3 – E06 – Should We Be Afraid of AI in the Criminal Justice System?


Derek Thompson – 20062019


Algorithms pervade our lives. They determine the news we see and the products we buy. But most Americans don’t understand how they are transforming every part of the criminal justice system—from policing and bail to sentencing and parole. Could computers make the legal system more fair? Or is it inherently unjust to put a person’s life in the hands of an algorithm?

See the related article for more details

Rachel Cicurel, a staff attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, was used to being outraged by the criminal-justice system. But in 2017, she saw something that shocked her conscience.

At the time, she was representing a young defendant we’ll call “D.” (For privacy reasons, we can’t share D’s name or the nature of the offense.) As the case approached sentencing, the prosecutor agreed that probation would be a fair punishment.

But at the last minute, the parties received some troubling news: D had been deemed a “high risk” for criminal activity. The report came from something called a criminal-sentencing AI—an algorithm that uses data about a defendant to estimate his or her likelihood of committing a future crime. When prosecutors saw the report, they took probation off the table, insisting instead that D be placed in juvenile detention.


Well worth listening to this

There are real issues around the use of AI. I have posted a number of times on the subject.

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