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Is Predictive Data Used for Sentencing and Recidivism Rate a Violation of Due Process Rights?

Around the country, the criminal justice system has benefited significantly from teaming up with technological advances. Compas, also known as, the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions, is one of the technological advances that have aided in reviewing statistical data, and has create an algorithm to determine whether or not someone is more likely to reoffend, also known as the recidivism rate. In theory, the algorithm behind Compas is used to predict whether or not someone is a high risk or a low risk of reoffending and to determine what sentence a person should have based on his/her history, education, background, criminal and parole history, drug use, and community relations, among other factors.

The Compas System

In Wisconsin, among other states, Compas has come under the microscope, especially as there have been complaints that the Compas system and its algorithm comprise a violation of a person’s due process of law, and there have been studies showing that the Compas system may have a racial bias against African Americans. Compas algorithms around the nation vary depending on the state and also whether the criminal defendant is a man, woman, or juvenile. Advocates of the Compas system believe that its predictive data may aid in freeing up space in prisons for those men and women who are in fact a danger to society, limiting the punishment for those who pose a lesser risk to the community.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Takes on Due Process Violation Case

The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to review a defendant’s case where he received a higher punishment because he was found to be a higher risk to the community. The trial court judge stated that he had based his assessment and determination of the defendant’s criminal sentence largely on the algorithm’s ultimate score of the defendant. The defendant, however, was not permitted to see the secret algorithm used to calculate his recidivism rate. The defendant filed an appeal saying that his due process of law was violated because he was not given access to the algorithm that predicted him to be a high risk to the community.

This is just one of what will soon be many complaints likely filed against Compas. The idea that a defendant may be classified as a high risk to the community based on an algorithm and rather than criminal behavior and conduct violates the concept of due process. If predictive data were to continue to be used and become a larger part of the criminal justice effort, it may evolve into a system where an innocent person may be charged with a crime because an algorithm determines that he/she is more likely than not to commit that offense.

Is Predictive Data Racially Biased Against African American Defendants?

According to investigative studies of the algorithms of Compas, and other software similar to Compas, it was found recently that the predictive data was biased against African Americans. According to the report published by ProPublica, the reporters reviewed the risk scores for roughly 7,000 people who had been arrested in Broward County, Florida between 2013 and 2014. The reporters then checked which of the 7,000 people reoffended within two years of their first offense (which is what the Compas algorithm is predicting.) According to ProPublica’s data, it found that the risk scores were wildly inaccurate when predicting future violent behavior; of those who had received a prediction that they would re-commit a violent crime in the future, only 20% of those who had received that high risk score actually committed a violent crime within 2 years. In addition, the data showed that not only were black defendants almost twice as likely to be predicted to be a reoffender than white defendants, but white defendants were miscategorized as low risk reoffenders more often than black defendants.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

If you or a loved one has been arrested for a crime, it is important to speak with an experienced defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik who can advocate on your behalf and guide you through the criminal justice process. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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