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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

Study finds risk assessment algorithms racially biased

Criminal courts and judges in California are increasingly making use of risk assessment technologies to determine how likely a person is to commit a crime in the future or how likely a person is to skip out on the next hearing. These risk assessment tools are billed as more objective and scientific than the human judgments they're replacing, but evidence indicates that there may be racial bias built right in.

A study by the Center for Court Innovation indicated that black defendants are more likely than people of other races to be categorized as high risk. The CCI set up a theoretical risk assessment tool using nine questions about things like the person's history with the criminal justice system and the current charges. The CCI tool was not used to make any real-world determinations, but it was designed to be similar to existing risk assessment tools that are used. More than 175,000 people were included in the study.

The study examined white, black and Hispanic people who were arrested in 2015 and then followed up after two years. Among the people who were not arrested again in the two years, nearly 25% of black people were identified as high risk compared to only 10% of white people and 17% of Hispanic people. The CCI researchers still say they encourage the use of such algorithms but only as part of a larger, comprehensive framework designed to remove racial bias from judicial decision-making.

Individuals who have be charged with crimes in California might want to speak with an attorney. An attorney with experience practicing criminal defense law may be able to help by examining the specifics of the criminal charge and looking for weaknesses in the prosecutor's case. An attorney might argue against the admissibility of certain prosecution evidence or negotiate a plea bargain on the client's behalf.

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