Thursday, July 31, 2008

Got Justice?

Scientific American recently ran a piece called Who Will Die? Computer Predicts Which Death Row Inmates Will Be Executed

New system finds that education level is more of a factor than race or severity of crime by Larry Greenemeier.
The major thesis and finding of the computer analysis is:
Capital punishment is legal in 36 states, but that does not necessarily mean all of the condemned will be executed. Some will languish behind bars for life and others may actually be exonerated and set free. Now researchers say they have built a computer system that can predict with 92 percent accuracy which death row inmates are most likely to be executed, a development they hope will lead to a fairer appeals process.

According to the system, the death row inmates most likely to be executed are those with the lowest levels of education. The researchers, from Texas A&M University–Texarkana and Loyola University New Orleans, report in the International Journal of Law and Information Technology, that neither the severity of the crime nor race—the latter of which is often cited as a key factor in convictions—are reliable forecasters of a prisoner's fate.

The system consists of 18 computer processors designed to analyze data the way that a human brain does—by studying one set of data and comparing it with another data set to find similarities and differences. In this case, researchers fed the system information about 1,000 death row prisoners, including their sex, age, race, highest year of school completed, the state in which they were incarcerated, and whether they were ultimately executed or spared. Once the system had established patterns (of traits most prevalent among the executed) from this initial pool, the researchers fed it similar information about 300 more prisoners (leaving out whether they had lived or died). The system, using logic it had developed from the first set of data, correctly predicted the outcome for 276 (92 percent) of the prisoners.

The system's success "has serious implications concerning the fairness of the justice system," says Stamos Karamouzis, dean of Regis University's School of Computer and Information Sciences in Denver, who led the 2006–07 study when he was a professor of computer and information sciences at Texas A&M. "People against the death penalty use the results of this work by pointing out that the nature of the crime has nothing to do with whether you're executed or not."
The article drifts off topic which is too bad because this is a truly disturbing pattern.

What it can mean is that prisoners are intellectually incapable of defending themselves from a system looking for easy sacrificial victims. And by easy we're talking about those who are easily fooled by the tricks of a system that preys on their logical and cognitive vulnerability.

Given the accuracy of the projections, it is not hard to imagine who is being added to the death list. Take a class roster from the failing schools, tally the number of projected criminals based on population and do some math. Today's inner city dropouts are dead (predominantly) men dropping out of schools happy to see them go so that the standardized test scores look good.

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