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ProPublica Exposes Racial Bias in Predictive Analytics [Chronicle of Social Change]

Tuesday, July 26, 2016  
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Chronicle of Social Change


A recent story from the nonprofit in-depth journalism site ProPublica quotes a warning issued in 2014 by then-Attorney General Eric Holder to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. His warning concerned a fad spreading through the criminal justice system. Said Holder:


"Although these measures were created with the best of intentions, I am concerned that they inadvertently undermine our efforts to ensure individualized and equal justice. They may exacerbate unwarranted and unjust disparities that are already far too common in our criminal justice system and in our society."


The fad that so concerned Holder is, of course, predictive analytics; the same fad spreading through child welfare.


Now, ProPublica has found that Holder was right.


ProPublica looked at 7,000 cases in Broward County, Fla., which uses a secret algorithm created by a for-profit company to assign risk scores to people arrested in that county, much as Los Angeles County plans to use a secret algorithm from a for-profit company in its child abuse investigations.


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