CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, July 31, 2020

Simmons on Big Data and Procedural Justice

Ric Simmons (Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law) has posted Big Data and Procedural Justice: Legitimizing Algorithms in the Criminal Justice System (15 Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 573 (2018)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Big data algorithms are becoming more common in the criminal justice system: they are used to provide more effective allocation of police resources, to notify police of potentially dangerous individuals at specific locations, to guide efforts to intervene with individuals before they engage in criminal activity, to advise judges making decisions about pre-trial detention, and to provide guidance to judges at sentencing. The debate about the propriety of using these algorithms has primarily focused on whether they are fair to the defendants they are evaluating. However, those in favor of using these tools in the criminal justice system must also consider another potential hurdle: whether these new tools will be accepted by the general public. For centuries, decisions in the criminal justice system have been made by individuals: police officers, judges, bureaucrats, and legislators. The general public is accustomed to these decision-makers and, for the most part, accepts their legitimacy. However, the public may not be as comfortable with the idea that critical criminal justice decisions are made or heavily influenced by computer programs instead of human beings. This question is a critical one for big data supporters: even if these tools can provide predictions that are more fair, efficient, and accurate than the clinical judgments made by human beings, they will never become widespread if they cannot gain public support.

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