In highly successful 2002 film "Minority Report," Tom Cruise navigates a future in which predictive computers are able to identify a criminal act before it is committed. Although much of the film's appeal relied on dazzling visual effects and Cruise's star power, the striking central concept of statistics-savvy software replacing real human judgment appeared to many as a frightening and dangerous twist on our modern system.
That futuristic twist may in fact be present fact across all of Michigan not long from now. Already being used in some Maryland and Pennsylvania jurisdictions, predictive software that forecasts a convicted criminal's likelihood of repeating an offense is being used in lieu of traditional parole hearings.
The program, which runs on a complex algorithm designed by a University of Pennsylvania criminologist, draws from a dataset of over 60,000 past crimes as it makes its decisions. Variables such as geography, age, and past criminal record are all cross-referenced with historical precedents and trends, finally delivering a computerized judgment on whether or not a sentenced person should or shouldn't be offered parole and a release back into free society.
Geared specifically toward preventing repeat homicide and murder crimes, the program's developer claims the algorithm will reduce crime rates and help courts with future decisions such as proper bail amounts and even appropriate sentencing terms.
Perhaps expectedly, some have voiced strong protest to the installation of computerized judgment in America's criminal and parole courts. Advocates for inmate rights recently expressed concern over the likelihood of harassment, particularly in situations in which the program produces a false positive prediction and keeps a reformed, goodly, and deserving convict from returning to their free life outside of prison.
For those who have been charged, or even convicted of a crime, securing just representation and treatment in court is essential. Although computerized programs may simplify the work of judges and police authorities, they do not guarantee rightful decision making across the board. In order to keep all opportunities and options on the table during a criminal defense case, those implicated or charged should contact an attorney as quickly as possible
Source: Wired, "U.S. Cities Relying on Precog Software to Predict Murder," Kim Zetter, Jan. 10, 2013
• Predictive software may only make it more important to assert one's rights in a criminal case. For more information, contact our Lansing criminal defense law page.