Florida to Punish Kids for Possible Future Crimes

Brilliant, isn’t it? Figure out ahead of time who will commit the crimes, and punish them now as a preventative measure!

From Yahoo Finance:

[The] Florida Department of Juvenile Justice will analyze key predictors such as past offense history, home life environment, gang affiliation and peer associations to better understand and predict which youths have a higher likelihood to reoffend.

With that information, the organization can more effectively place specific segments of juveniles into the best programs for rehabilitation.

SPSS logoGuess who is providing the helpful (helpful like a big brother!) analytical software that determines who to punish for future crimes? IBM of course!

…Deepak Advani, vice president of predictive analytics at IBM, said, “Predictive analytics gives government organizations worldwide a highly-sophisticated and intelligent source to create safer communities by identifying, predicting, responding to and preventing criminal activities. It gives the criminal justice system the ability to draw upon the wealth of data available to detect patterns, make reliable projections and then take the appropriate action in real time to combat crime and protect citizens.”

Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo responds: “I don’t know about how reliable your system is, IBM, but have you ever heard of the 5th, the 6th, and the 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution? What about article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?”

My Orwellian nightmares are coming true! Go to IBM subsidiary SPSS to find out where else these enchanting “predictive analytics” are turning up. Hint: everywhere.

Well, time to go live off the grid somewhere and never have contact with democratic capitalism again. Later!

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14 thoughts on “Florida to Punish Kids for Possible Future Crimes

  1. Now I know that I’ve been too steeped in Criminal Justice crap when this does not surprise me. In fact, this happens in a variety of programs. In researching pre-arrest diversion tactics going on in several cities in the U.S., the Drug Market Initiative (or High Point Initiative) uses a variety of factors (especially history of violent offenses) to determine who gets the opportunity to receive help (in the form of not being arrested and being aided in finding employment and transportation). Often drug courts use this tactic, too, and only those who seem like they have the least chance of repeat offending or committing a violent crime get offered the drug court opportunities rather than jail time. I am sure there are many other programs that involve using factors in their background to determine what they are most likely to do and then give them certain opportunities (such as rehabilitation or confinement) based on this.

    (I didn’t know IBM owned SPSS/PASW – I use that!)

    And people wonder why I don’t like Criminal Justice… Living in an Orwellian/Foucaultian nightmare does not seem like the best method for policing and assisting people.

  2. This could violate the In Re Winship standard set by the Supreme Court, but it depends on how the program is structured. Because of that standard (that juveniles as well as all people must be found beyond a reasonable doubt guilty of all elements of a crime) they can either only structure it two ways: offer it as a choice to those who meet their criteria, or wait for a minor offense to pick them up into the system (loitering, truancy).

    Otherwise they would face a constitutional challenge, probably from the ACLU.

    The point of the system is probably to weed out kids who are just up to no good momentarily and those about to fall into the criminal justice system cycle. There are kids (myself as one) who got into sporadic trouble and weren’t about to descend into a life of crime. Then there are others for whom the first arrest is the first of many, and the best time for the system to address the youth’s problems is earlier better than later.

    There was a New Yorker article about a similar program that they set up in Cincinnati where they basically told young gang members that they would get real rehabilitative help, jobs help, and living help, but that if they went back to crime, they would be punished to the full extent of the law. I never saw a follow up, but it was an interesting program because it tried to address the fallacies of post-incarceration help and corrections as a deterrent. That being, actual help after jail time, but also a counter-promise that going back to crime carries real punishment and loss of those benefits.

  3. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on how it is implemented. A judge does this now by looking at folders full of paperwork. If they are saying that we have 3 programs and depending on what the computer tells us we will place you in one of the three programs then I doubt that this can be constitutionally challenged. If they are using the computer to say who will go to jail and who will get parole, then that is a very different story!

    I think in many cases I would rather have a computer determine the best course of action rather than an asshole judge who despises African-Americans and sends them off to prison because he “knows” they are all scum who will commit more crimes.

  4. Tom-

    You bring up an interesting point. Matthew Crawford in “Shop Class as Soulcraft” discusses this mechanization of decision-making. It used to be that one of the few jobs a human could do that a machine couldn’t was make decisions. With software like this, now even decision-making can be done by machines, potentially reducing the jobs of judges, probation officers and the like to merely carrying out the orders of a machine instead of making complex decisions themselves.

    Is this good? As you point out, humans are subject to prejudices that machines are not (unless programmed by a prejudiced person). But also, humans have discretion and judgment. Humans can interact with an individual (potential?) offender and tailor the “rehabilitation” (creepy word) to the needs of the youth.

    This machine tries to make up for good judgment and years of experience and learning.

    Would I want important decisions about my life to be made by a machine or by a person? That’s actually tough. Ideally, by a person. But what if I know that decision-makers have prejudices against people like me? Then maybe I *would* want the machine.

    I lean towards keeping humans in decision-making. Instead of replacing decision-making with analytical software, an android brain that thinks about only one thing, I would prefer to strive to eliminate prejudice among people so that human decision-making can be improved.

    The machine also takes away individual responsibility. People can abdicate from moral involvement in their actions if they become accustomed to simply following the orders of an ‘objective’ machine. Can’t you see an official excusing some sort of reprehensible situation, by saying: “I’m sorry, I was just following protocol. The machine doesn’t discriminate. I was just following instructions”?

  5. “With software like this, now even decision-making can be done by machines, potentially reducing the jobs of judges, probation officers and the like to merely carrying out the orders of a machine instead of making complex decisions themselves.”

    My guess is that this wouldn’t be constitutional. What I think the way this would work is that the computer would do an analysis and recommend a course of action… this person needs a job program, this person needs a training program, this person needs a training program and counseling, etc. But I would assume that what is actually done would still be left to the judgment of a judge and a parole officer. But it would be harder for a racist to justify ignoring the computer’s recommendation.

    As far as the programmer of the computer being racist, as long as race or racial clues (neighborhood where the offender lives for example) aren’t inputs to program, that really wouldn’t matter.

  6. “I would prefer to strive to eliminate prejudice among people so that human decision-making can be improved.”

    We all would. Perhaps in 10,000 years or so we might get there.

  7. Wellsmus – The program implemented in Cincinnati is the Drug Market Initiative (I believe it may be called the Lockwood Initiative there) that I mentioned. It has been implemented by at least 20-30 cities and so far the results have been rather good. However, this strategy has only been in use for a few years, so the long-term results have yet to be assessed. One of the biggest components to this program and its success has been community involvement on all levels. Yet I personally think it is too bad that out of the 100 or more individuals that each city considers for the program, only roughly 10-15 (sometimes less) are given this opportunity. (I understand money concerns and the fact that the program is so new).

    Havlova and Tom – Is there ever really a way to remove bias in computerized systems? (I’m asking because there may be, but I am not sure). It is still a decision by someone (or several someones) to include or exclude certain attributes when determining what makes someone more or less likely to do something in the future. For example, if past unemployment is looked at or household structure or education completed, aren’t these things often linked to problems of class and racial oppression? I by no means have any definite answers or solutions.

  8. “For example, if past unemployment is looked at or household structure or education completed, aren’t these things often linked to problems of class and racial oppression?”

    Let’s take a look at Cameron Douglas. His father is an alcoholic. Parents are divorced. He has a history of unemployment and drug abuse. I think that to some extent that is the kind of family history you will find in most criminals.

    The other aspects they are looking at (gang affiliation and peers) are probably very good indicators for repeat offenders. If you are in a gang and all your friends are criminals then you probably need more help avoiding repeating your crimes then if all your friends are attending Duke and going for their PhD’s.

  9. Tom: “His father is an alcoholic. Parents are divorced. He has a history of unemployment and drug abuse. I think that to some extent that is the kind of family history you will find in most criminals.”

    This is where I see us getting into dangerous territory. Should a criminal or “potential” criminal be punished differently depending on what family they were born into? A person has no control over that factor.

    Shenanigans: “For example, if past unemployment is looked at or household structure or education completed, aren’t these things often linked to problems of class and racial oppression?”

    Indeed. Or take for instance a transgender person who grew up in a low income neighborhood with bad public schools. How likely is it that such a person will be able to find above-the-table work and a stable lifestyle? Should such a person be punished differently for how/where they were born? Is not a prejudiced and unequal societal structure at blame?

  10. Tom – I understand the typical patterns in criminal’s history, but my problem was what causes those patterns. I guess I feel like it’s stuck in a cycle – those that are most likely to have those histories (poor education, unemployment, gang membership, and so forth) may be minorities who then do not receive certain opportunities (such as rehab programs or jobs) because they are viewed as more likely to be repeat offenders. So if the factors used in the statistical analysis (because someone is picking certain factors) are things such as unemployment and gang membership, who is most likely going to fall into that category because of institutionalized, systemic oppression? At the same time, I don’t know what other factors one would look at. I feel at a lose for what we should do!

    And now I feel like I have strayed from the top of the original post and should resist going on a tangental rant. Sorry!

  11. Shenanigans: “For example, if past unemployment is looked at or household structure or education completed, aren’t these things often linked to problems of class and racial oppression?”

    Havlová: “Indeed.”

    That was the point I was trying to make. Cameron Douglas is the son of multi-millionaires.

    And you seem to have missed the point of the article… “With that information, the organization can more effectively place specific segments of juveniles into the best programs for rehabilitation.” We are talking about rehabilitation programs for juveniles, not punishment. So yes, a person who comes from a family of alcoholics will need a different program than a person who comes from a good family but just fell into a drug problem. The latter is much more likely to get good family support.

  12. @Tom:

    I’m not sure that I understand your Cameron Douglas point. Do you care to elaborate? (Yes, I looked him up on Wikipedia.)

    Regarding the quote: “With that information, the organization can more effectively place specific segments of juveniles into the best programs for rehabilitation.”

    I didn’t make it clear in my OP, but the ‘article’ I’m quoting is actually a press release from IBM/SPSS. So it naturally depicts a beautiful, rosy picture. I am critiquing this unblemished picture by considering potential negative side effects and weighing another option (non-automization of decision-making). I am also interested in considering whether this will be better or worse for people with marginalized identities who are more likely to “experience” the criminal justice system on the receiving end.

    Whose idea of “best programs” are we talking about? And what do we mean by “rehabilitation”? Rehabilitation is often code for time spent deprived of liberty until one “proves” (to whom?) one can fully reenter society. I.e. rehabilitation is the point of punishment.

    Rehabilitation:punishment :: 6:half dozen

  13. Shenanigans was proposing the idea that past unemployment or household structure might give clues to a computer program as to race or class. My point was that a wealthy white criminal had divorced parents one of whom was an alcoholic and that he had a history of unemployment. So these are not reliable clues to race or class. Rather they would be clues found with many criminals.

    Based on what they are saying, it sounds like the computer program would not be determining either jail vs. parole or length of sentence. I am fairly certain that that would be unconstitutional. Rather they are using the computer program to help them determine what types of programs are most likely to help the convicted person. That sounds like a reasonable use of the computer program.

  14. Tom – I’m not sure that one case of a wealthy white man committing a crime erases the pattern of who typically is caught in oppressive situations (or who typically is focused on when it comes to police action and jail time).

    Havlova – I was also trying to get at the ideas that 1) only certain “ideal” individuals who have committed a crime will be given opportunities other than jail time and 2) that even some of these rehabilitation programs may not be so awesome. I will admit that I do not know what all of them entail. I think things like drug courts and the Drug Market Initiative could be beneficial because they attempt to find ways to aid people outside of just locking them up or fining them. However, with the social institutions still in place that create the problem, do they have a great chance of getting an education and/or a decent job? What if their have poor social networks or no social networks? The criminal justice system needs a massive overhaul and I’m not sure if predicting future crimes or criminals is really a good way to go. I find selective incapacitation (or, predictive-based sentencing) not without problems.

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