A Popular Algorithm Is No Better at Predicting Crimes Than Random People
In February 2013, Eric Loomis was found driving a car that had been used in a shooting. He was arrested, and pleaded guilty to eluding an officer. In determining his sentence, a judge looked not just to his criminal record, but also to a score assigned by a tool called COMPAS.
Developed by a private company called Equivant (formerly Northpointe), COMPAS—or the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions—purports to predict a defendant’s risk of committing another crime. It works through a proprietary algorithm that considers some of the answers to a 137-item questionnaire.
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