Four Links from a Criminal Justice System: Aftermath Edition (With Funk/Soul)

Four Links from a Criminal Justice System: Aftermath Edition (With Funk/Soul) June 9, 2016

There is funk/soul at the end of this post. Delayed gratification, I’ve heard of it but I don’t think it really exists.

Racial bias in risk-assessment software:

…Prater was the more seasoned criminal. He had already been convicted of armed robbery and attempted armed robbery, for which he served five years in prison, in addition to another armed robbery charge. Borden had a record, too, but it was for misdemeanors committed when she was a juvenile.

Yet something odd happened when Borden and Prater were booked into jail: A computer program spat out a score predicting the likelihood of each committing a future crime. Borden — who is black — was rated a high risk. Prater — who is white — was rated a low risk.

Two years later, we know the computer algorithm got it exactly backward. Borden has not been charged with any new crimes. Prater is serving an eight-year prison term for subsequently breaking into a warehouse and stealing thousands of dollars’ worth of electronics.

more (On the one hand, this is a compelling read with links to their underlying evidence, strong personal stories, and clear prescriptions for change. On the other hand it’s in thin white text on a black background, because nobody who needs glasses would ever read nerd journalism :/.)

You can clear your record… if you’ve got cash money:

Many states charge $150 or less to apply for expungement, the legal term for clearing a criminal record, and some states offer a waiver if the applicant is too poor to pay. But the Tennessee legislature wanted money for the state’s general fund, so it set the fee much higher.


“‘Ban the Box’ does more harm than good”:

If you take information about criminal records away, what happens? Employers are forced to use other information that is even less perfect to guess who has a criminal record. The likelihood of having a criminal record varies substantially with demographic characteristics like race and gender. Specifically, black and Hispanic men are more likely than others to have been convicted of a crime: the most recent data suggest that a black man born in 2001 has a 32% chance of serving time in prison at some point during his lifetime, compared with 17% for Hispanic men and just 6% for white men. Employers will guess that black and Hispanic men are more likely to have been in prison, and therefore less likely to be job-ready. …

What effects has “ban the box” had so far? Two new working papers suggest that, as economic theory predicts, “ban the box” policies increase racial disparities in employment outcomes.


This response from Dara Lind is framed as a defense of ban-the-box but isn’t really; its actual argument is this, which is right:

Many people, disproportionately nonwhite, have trouble getting jobs because of behavior that other people might not have even been arrested for (like possession of marijuana), actions that might have been excused if perpetrated by someone else (like acting in self-defense against a domestic abuser), or crimes they committed under circumstances other people would never have to face (like being coerced into sex work by poverty). That is the problem. It is, to a large extent, the problem ban the box was supposed to help address.

Clearly it isn’t addressing the problem successfully, or at least not yet. That seems like a good reason to try to come up with other ways to fix the problem through policy, while working to address the underlying implicit bias that associates blackness with criminality to begin with.


and hey that wasn’t the world’s least depressing post so here, shout your heart out. Via Mockingbird. YOU MUST NOT QUESTION THE GOOD LOOOOOOOOORD, party people!

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