Computational Social Science Forum — The Accuracy, Equity, and Jurisprudence of Criminal Risk Assessment

CSS Training Program

November 2, 2020
12:00pm to 1:30pm
Virtual Participation

Register

Computational Social Science Forum
Date: Monday, November 2, 2020
Time: 12:00-1:30 PM Pacific Time
Location: Register to receive the schedule and access links.

This week's session will feature an informal discussion with authors Jennifer Skeem (UC Berkeley) and Christopher Slobogin (Vanderbilt Law School) about their paper:

The Accuracy, Equity, and Jurisprudence of Criminal Risk Assessment
January 19, 2019  |  Social Science Research Network (SSRN) 
Sharad Goel, Ravi Shroff, Jennifer L. Skeem, and Christopher Slobogin  

Abstract: Jurisdictions across the country, including the federal government through its recently enacted First Step Act, have begun using statistical algorithms (also called “instruments”) to help determine an arrestee’s or an offender’s risk of reoffending. These risk assessment instruments (RAIs) might be used at a number of points in the criminal process, including at the front-end by judges to impose a sentence after conviction, at the back-end by parole boards to make decisions about prison release, or in between these two points by correctional authorities determining the optimal security and service arrangements for an offender. At the pretrial stage, RAIs might come into play at the time of the bail or pretrial detention determination by a judge, which usually takes place shortly after arrest. The increased use of RAIs in the criminal justice system has given rise to several criticisms. RAIs are said to be no more accurate than clinical assessments, racially biased, lacking in transparency and, because of their quantitative nature, dehumanizing. This chapter critically examines a number of these concerns. It also highlights how the law has, and should, respond to these issues.

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 css-t32@berkeley.edu for more information.

Speaker(s)

Christopher Slobogin

Chair in Law, and Director of the Criminal Justice Program, Vanderbilt Law School

Christopher Slobogin is the Milton R. Underwood Chair in Law, and the Director of the Criminal Justice Program at Vanderbilt Law School. Dr. Slobogin has authored more than 100 articles, books and chapters on topics relating to criminal law and procedure, mental health law and evidence. 

Jennifer Skeem

Professor of Social Welfare, and Professor of Public Policy, UC Berkeley

Jennifer Skeem is the Florence Krenz Mack Professor of Social Welfare, and a Professor of Public Policy with the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. Dr. Skeem is a psychologist who writes and teaches about the intersection between behavioral science and criminal justice. Her research is designed to inform efforts to prevent violence, improve decision-making about people involved in the justice system, and achieve effective and equitable justice reform. Current projects include testing innovative correctional services for people with mental illness, identifying environmental factors that promote violence within institutions, and promoting prosocial behavior among juveniles at risk. Much of Skeem’s current work addresses a surge of interest in the use of risk assessment to inform criminal sentencing—including how this practice may affect racial and economic disparities in imprisonment.