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Study Finds That Software Program for Sentencing Guidelines Not as Unbiased as It Should Be

Posted on : February 6, 2018
a computer program helping judges with convictions may not be unbiased

Is Software Program for Sentencing Guidelines Biased?

Judges don’t always make decisions about a convicted person’s sentencing on their own. While it’s certainly a good idea to have the right criminal defense attorney to help you avoid conviction if possible and to be there to fight for reduced sentencing if you are, a judge plays an important role in deciding your future. Many judges, however, also use software to help them determine what might be a fair sentence given the specifics of the case itself. A study has found, however, that this software is not without its bias.

COMPAS, the software program frequently referenced by judges in determining sentencing for criminals, is determined to be not as biased as it is marketed. The allegedly unbiased computer algorithm translates to different outcomes for black versus white defendants, and appear to have no better recommendations than random volunteers selected over the internet when it came to figuring out someone’s likelihood to commit crimes in the future. According to the outcome of the recent study, the algorithm issues racially biased recommendations that put black Americans accused of crimes at greater risk of facing significant consequences when compared with white people who faced the same risk of recidivism.

This software has long been marketed as a fair way to judges to get guidelines for sentencing.

Although no explicit information about race was included in the inputs to this computer program, the recommendations led to white people being categorized as lower risk and black people being categorized as higher risk. The program looks at six various data points when determining whether or not a person is at risk of re-offending, although the general program explores a 127 different data points when recommending rehabilitation programs.

One recent Broward county study also reflects that the COMPAS program performance was no better than volunteers who were recruited to determine someone’s likelihood to offend in the future based on their criminal history, age and sex for 1,000 different defendants. This makes it all the more important to hire the right criminal defense attorney to represent you in your case and give you the best possible chance of fighting off these charges.


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