“We can’t end mass incarceration without first changing what happens before trial. On any given day, the United States incarcerates nearly half a million people who have only been accused of a crime and await their day in court.
In response, many cities and counties have started to use algorithms that try to predict people’s future criminal behavior, known as risk assessments. As researchers in the fields of sociology, data science and law, we believe pretrial risk assessment tools are fundamentally flawed. They give judges recommendations that make future violence seem more predictable and more certain than it actually is. In the process, risk assessments may perpetuate the misconceptions and fears that drive mass incarceration.
More than 30 years ago, the Supreme Court affirmed in United States v. Salerno that “liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception.” In practice, the opposite is true. The United States accounts for only 4 percent of the global population, but 20 percent of the global pretrial jail population. Current pretrial incarceration rates defy all historical norms. There are more legally innocent people behind bars in America today than there were convicted people in jails and prisons in 1980.”
Read the full Op-Ed piece here.