Wisconsin’s Prison-Sentencing Algorithm Challenged in Court https://slashdot.org/

June 27, 2016

"Do you want a computer to help decide a convict’s fate?" asks Engadget, telling the story of a Wisconsin convict who "claims that the justice system relied too heavily on its COMPAS algorithm to determine the likelihood of repeat offenses and sentenced him to six years in prison." Sentencing algorithms have apparently been in use for 10 years.
His attorneys claim that the code is "full of holes," including secret criteria and generic decisions that aren’t as individually tailored as they have to be. For instance, they’ll skew predictions based on your gender or age — how does that reflect the actual offender…? [T]he court challenge could force Wisconsin and other states to think about the weight they give to algorithms. While they do hold the promise of both preventing repeat offenses and avoiding excessive sentences for low-threat criminals, the American Civil Liberties Union is worried that they can amplify biases or make mistakes based on imperfect law enforcement data. The biggest issue seems to be a lack of transparency, which makes it impossible to determine whether convicts actually are receiving fair sentences.



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