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March 7, 2020

"Technologies of Crime Prediction: The Reception of Algorithms in Policing and Criminal Courts"

The title of this post is the title of this intriguing and timely new article authored by Sarah Brayne and Angèle Christin just published in the journal Social Problems. Here is its abstract:

The number of predictive technologies used in the U.S. criminal justice system is on the rise.  Yet there is little research to date on the reception of algorithms in criminal justice institutions.  We draw on ethnographic fieldwork conducted within a large urban police department and a midsized criminal court to assess the impact of predictive technologies at different stages of the criminal justice process.

We first show that similar arguments are mobilized to justify the adoption of predictive algorithms in law enforcement and criminal courts.  In both cases, algorithms are described as more objective and efficient than humans’ discretionary judgment.  We then study how predictive algorithms are used, documenting similar processes of professional resistance among law enforcement and legal professionals.  In both cases, resentment toward predictive algorithms is fueled by fears of deskilling and heightened managerial surveillance.  Two practical strategies of resistance emerge: foot-dragging and data obfuscation.  We conclude by discussing how predictive technologies do not replace, but rather displace discretion to less visible — and therefore less accountable — areas within organizations, a shift which has important implications for inequality and the administration of justice in the age of big data.

March 7, 2020 at 03:00 PM | Permalink

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