Racial Bias in Court Risk Prediction Equations

Racial Bias in Court Risk Prediction Equations, criminal defense, criminal justice systemYou may not have heard about them before, but many courts are turning to risk prediction equations as a measure to make informed decisions regarding sentencing, bail, and early release. A judge’s own opinion on the matter may be overlooked in favor of these increasingly prevalent equations. But how accurate are these equations, and moreover, is there a risk of racial bias? The answer, unfortunately, is that there is a huge racial bias that goes a long way to making an already racist institute (the criminal justice system) even more so.

According to ProPublica, “Researchers found that the formula, and others like it, have been written in a way that guarantees black defendants will be inaccurately identified as future criminals more often than their white counterparts.” An earlier investigation by ProPublica, which spurred more recent research by four other independent groups of scholars that came to similar conclusions, found that black defendants were twice as likely to be given an incorrect high-risk level than whites. These scores are called COMPAS risk assessment scores. The investigation observed a racial bias by following defendants who were not arrested for new crimes but were initially given a high-risk level. Blacks were more likely to be given a high-risk level, while whites who were given a low-risk level COMPAS score were actually more likely to commit a new offense than blacks with comparable risk assessments.

The Office of Justice Programs: New Tool in Philadelphia Shows Great Promise

Even while studies are showing the inherent racial bias of these equations, the federal government continues to back them. The National Institute of Justice rationalizes these risk prediction equations, in particular, an equation developed in Philadelphia, as follows: “For some time to come, our cities, counties and states will face the tremendous challenge of trying to do their work with fewer resources. That challenge is perhaps no more pressing than in the nation's corrections system, where fiscal realities demand the downsizing of prison populations . . . Seven years ago, criminologists from the University of Pennsylvania and officials with Philadelphia's Adult Probation and Parole Department (APPD) teamed up to create a computerized system that predicts — with a high degree of accuracy — which probationers are likely to violently reoffend within two years of returning to the community.” As budgets are cut and thousands more are locked up for drug possession and other small crimes and, undoubtedly the process of locking up Americans will become even more racist if these equations are continued to be used by courts in Illinois and across the country.

Call an Experienced Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney Today for Immediate Assistance

If you have been charged with a crime, or are facing injustice based on the color of your skin, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Naperville criminal defense attorney at once. Do not hesitate to reach out to Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC today for help with your case.