AI Cultist On Justice System Reform

White House Challenges Artificial Intelligence Experts to Reduce Incarceration Rates by Jason Shueh.

From the post:

The U.S. spends $270 billion on incarceration each year, has a prison population of about 2.2 million and an incarceration rate that’s spiked 220 percent since the 1980s. But with the advent of data science, White House officials are asking experts for help.

On Tuesday, June 7, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Lynn Overmann, who also leads the White House Police Data Initiative, stressed the severity of the nation’s incarceration crisis while asking a crowd of data scientists and artificial intelligence specialists for aid.

“We have built a system that is too large, and too unfair and too costly — in every sense of the word — and we need to start to change it,” Obermann said, speaking at a Computing Community Consortium public workshop.

She argued that the U.S., a country that has the highest amount incarcerated citizens in the world, is in need of systematic reforms with both data tools to process alleged offenders and at the policy level to ensure fair and measured sentences. As a longtime counselor, advisor and analyst for the Justice Department and at the city and state levels, Overman said she has studied and witnessed an alarming number of issues in terms of bias and unwarranted punishments.

For instance, she said that statistically, while drug use is about equal between African Americans and Caucasians, African Americans are more likely to be arrested and convicted. They also receive longer prison sentences compared to Caucasian inmates convicted of the same crimes.

Other problems, Oberman said, are due to inflated punishments that far exceed the severity of crimes. She recalled her years spent as an assistant public defender for Florida’s Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office as an example.

“I represented a client who was looking at spending 40 years of his life in prison because he stole a lawnmower and a weedeater from a shed in a backyard,” Obermann said, “I had another person who had AIDS and was offered a 15-year sentence for stealing mangos.”

Data and digital tools can help curb such pitfalls by increasing efficiency, transparency and accountability, she said.
… (emphasis added)

Spotting a cultist tip: Before specifying criteria for success or even understanding a problem, a cultist announces the approach that will succeed.

Calls like this one are a disservice to legitimate artificial intelligence research, to say nothing of experts in criminal justice (unlike Lynn Overmann), who have struggled for decades to improve the criminal justice system.

Yes, Overmann has experience in the criminal justice system, both in legal practice and at a policy level, but that makes her no more of an expert on criminal justice reform than having multiple flat tires makes me an expert on tire design.

Data is not, has not been, nor will it ever be a magic elixir that solves undefined problems posed to it.

White House sponsored AI cheer leading is a disservice to AI practitioners, experts in the field of criminal justice reform and more importantly, to those impacted by the criminal justice system.

Substitute meaningful problem definitions for the AI pom-poms if this is to be more than resume padding and currying favor with contractors project.

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