If those two words, statistical probability, aren’t enough to say ‘what the hey,’ then let’s throw another word at you – algorithm!
Tag; you the arrestee, are now a number (statistic) fed into a major data base system that will replace the monetary bail system, and get this – you, the tax payer are going to pay for this new system!
The debate centers on private business versus public bureaucrats. Is the private section, with no tax payer monies involved, better able to handle (bail) arrestees, or will this new statistical system, called the Risk Assessment Tool managed by the jails, be an impartial instrument in the evaluation of your freedom? You say what does this mean?” It means once you are arrested you have to take an evaluation test that will be based on your crime, your age, your socio-economic status, your education or lack thereof, etc. It will be the determination of your release or incarceration.
Sorry, no bail bondsman to call for help. The tool or this algorithm system, will inform the judge about the probability of you making your court dates, committing another crime (re-offending), or getting your life in order – Yup, statistics might predict that factor, too. The irony is, once you are a statistic there is no way out!
For example, one person whose county jail system used this algorithm unknown to him, stated. “You mean to tell me they’re using statistics to determine what’s going to happen to me? That ain’t right.” Yes, he summed it up in a nutshell. Tag- you’re a statistical number in the system. Yes, you can get out of jail free, if you meet all the data criteria and score well;
However, your crime and all your personal data will be fed into a big data base, this social experiment, solely for the purpose of gathering more data to upgrade the algorithms. It will be used for whatever the big thinkers decide to do with the data and you! More meat, more info and more data, data, data! Can it be gamed, so to speak? Of course. Garbage in garbage out.
Aside from data driven evaluations, the other reason for bail reform is to empty the jails of those who cannot afford bail. Everyone is rushing to the rescue of those who purposefully commit a crime, and oops end up in jail! Let’s see, I commit a crime, but I can’t afford to bail out, because I have no money?
But wait, San Francisco has a remedy. It’s called the Humphrey Decision and according to CA’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra and a Civil Rights Corps, “a defendant may not be imprisoned solely due to poverty.” This is now the “law of the land” according to Becerra and if judges set an arbitrary bail they are in violation of the law. So, what determines your poverty level – the judge, an algorithm, Bail reform, Bail, Statistical probabilities, or this Risk Assessment Tool?
All of these points according to UC Berkeley psychologist, Jennifer Skeem –are theoretical. “They can accomplish goals. But once they enter the real world, there are usually trade-offs,” and California will now become the testing ground for this massive bail reform system, which is a looming social experiment about to be dumped on our state!
By Sharla Esparza