Final Project Proposal

I plan on investigating algorithms in the Criminal Justice System because I discover it prejudicial how a judge decides whether to send you home or to jail to await trial using math.  They call it “risk assessment tools,” where they fill out your history, demographics information, and essential details to obtain a score. That score will determine how likely you are to commit another crime or show up at your next hearing date. The problem is when risk assessment tools become racist against people of color and Latinos. We need to understand how algorithms are created to define if they are useful and neutral. According to “The era of blind faith in big data must end” by Cathy O’Neil, to build an algorithm, you need two things: 1- Data: what happened in the past, and 2- definition of success: the thing you are looking for. In fact, algorithms can go wrong because they can repeat our past practices or patterns. 

I have many questions about using algorithms in the Criminal Justice System. The first, are algorithms a threat to justice? Justice is fair, equal, and balanced for everyone. What happened if that concept of justice is not applied to the reality because algorithms increase discrimination based on race, putting in risk the legislative branch? Judges are focus only on what numbers are on their screen without an in-depth evaluation of the person is in front of them. Another critical question, what data did they use to create “risk assessments tools”? Did they use data from the time people of color and Latinos were discriminated against? If yes, algorithms will repeat the same actions.

I need to find out the different risk assessment tools used by the Criminal Justice System, specifically in New York City in 2019. After I identify which assessments judges are using, I want to verify if algorithms were right. It is important to collect data to analyze the results of judges’ decisions against people of color and Latinos. I think it would be difficult to interview a judge to know his point of view regarding algorithms. Another complex aspect would be to understand how algorithms work since they use mathematical formulas.

2 thoughts on “Final Project Proposal

  1. Hadiann Traore

    What sources will you be using?
    Can you further explain how theses algorithms come about? It seems interesting.
    How can judges go about making a choice in a different way, like are there other options?


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