Computational Social Science Forum — The Emergence of Insight at the California Board of Parole Hearings

CSS Training Program

September 21, 2020
12:00pm to 1:30pm
Virtual Participation


Computational Social Science Forum
Date: Monday, September 21, 2020
Time: 12:00-1:30 PM Pacific Time
Location: Register to receive the schedule and access links.

The Emergence of Insight at the California Board of Parole Hearings 

Isaac Dalke, PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley Sociology Department
Abstract: Who should be in prison? Today, the California Board of Parole Hearings -- which decides whether to release people serving life sentences from prison -- routinely answers this question in terms of 'insight,' or whether the person up for parole can articulate the causes of their crime. However, this is quite a recent development. This talk integrates new computational text analysis methods with traditional interpretive techniques to examine how 'insight' came to be at the center of parole board decision-making following two California Supreme Court cases in 2008. Employing word frequencies, word embeddings, and close readings to analyze nearly 10,000 parole board transcripts, the talk shows how the vocabulary and logic of 'insight' migrated out of supplemental psychological reports and into the heart of decision rationales. In so doing, it charts the emergence of a powerful discourse: one with literally the power to incarcerate. 

The Computational Social Science Forum is an informal setting for the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and scholarship at the intersection of social science and data science. Weekly meetings are hosted by researchers from BIDS and D-Lab, and participants engage in a variety of activities such as presentations of work in progress, discussions and critiques of recent papers, introductions to new tools and methods, discussions around ethics, fairness, inequality, and responsible conduct of research, as well as professional development. We welcome social scientists researchers with interests in data science methods and tools, and data scientists with applications or interests in public policy, social, behavioral, and health sciences. Participants include graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty, and members are encouraged to attend regularly in order to foster community around improving computational social science research, supporting the development and research of group members, and fostering new collaborations. This Forum is organized as part of the Computational Social Science Training Program. Meetings are currently held virtually on Mondays at 12:00-1:30 PM Pacific Time, and interested UC Berkeley community members are invited to use this registration form to receive the schedule and access links. Please contact for more information.


Isaac Dalke

PhD Candidate, Sociology, UC Berkeley