Thursday, April 22, 2010

Data Mining, Criminal Sentencing, and Analogy

Florida will be using data mining to suggest the program to which each juvelile delinquent is to be assigned.--which extracts rules from data, just as the machine learning techniques such as ID3 do-- Data mining is just a sophisticated version of these techniques.

This is not new. People have been talking about using techniques such as regression to predict recidivism and help judges make good sentencing decisions. (I won't take the time right now to do the research.) Many states used very specific guidelines--I had a programming course with many students from my University Law Enforcement and Justice Administration Departments. I had the students program the guidelines as a real-world example of a complicated if statement.)

The question is which is most likely to sentence a juvenile correctly, the lowest recidivism rate for the lowest cost in incarceration, the predictions made by a set of rules, a prediction made by an expert such as a judge or criminologist,, or a prediction from a randomly selected jury. A relatively simple study could do this--have all three make a prediction, sentence the juvenile to one randomly and watch the outcomes. WorThat is a question that could be ank going back to the sixties show that statistical approaches predict recidivism better than "clinical experts." (Caroll, John S., "Judgments of Recidivism risk: Conflicts between Clinical Strategies and Base-Rate Information", Law and Human Behavior volume One, Number Two 1977, page 191-198

The challenge of participatory democracy, just as it is for conventional sentencing, is how to incorporate the decision making. The Participatory Democracy could develop a set of rules for sentencing while being given the results of these regression tests. These then would be applied with little or no discretion to each individual offender. Or each offendor could be sentenced by a participatory democracy jury, with the juries receiving a prediction or data from the statistical model or data mining model. However, sadly, Kahnmean and Tversky showed that individuals did not properly use statistical data. The alternatives for jurors to use for sentencing are similar to that for tax decisions--and if prison and jail availability is a limited resource, society could independently decides how many slots are for rapists, how many slots for armed robbers, etc. and the participatory democracy jury could vote for which armed robbers would be assigned to those slots.

There are many references in Dr. Carroll's article to literature on human judgment in using statistical models in general and its use in criminal sentencing decisions in specific. I will track many of these down for a future Thoughtful Thursday.

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