Technology has truly transformed every aspect of our lives. Be it normal chat-box texting with a classmate or stretching out our arms to Mars. The technological bonanza that we live in has made our lives easier, quicker and more organized. With technology, we are able to keep a track of our quotidian activities for the longest time one can imagine. This ability to keep a track, keep records and also intelligently detect errors brings us to a field where technology perhaps can do more wonders than its creators.
We’re talking about criminal justice. The field of criminal justice needs an unbiased, unprejudiced and completely faultless evaluation of evidence, proofs and even the statements given by humans. To make these tasks possible, artificial intelligence is desperately needed. In this blog, we are going to explore how technology has metamorphosized the process of justice delivery with a lot more precision and fairness than before. We will also concern ourselves with some start-ups working in this direction that make this high risk and high probability task easier to undertake.
As history has it, the criminal justice system has fallen prey to some of the most unjust practices itself over the centuries. Considering the example of the USA, there is a trend of mass incarceration and that too in an explicitly discriminating manner. As innovative and empathetic minds noticed these trends, they actively sought to bring technology into use for covering up the loopholes in the system and helping government officials take more informed decisions.
Some of the areas where artificial intelligence is used for facilitating the criminal justice system are as follows:
- Predictive policing: as the name suggests, predictive policing involves anticipating and pinpointing places, people and particular times when the risk of crime is at the highest. Technologies in this field have helped the police in making algorithms to decide where, when and how many police officers need to be deployed to dissuade people from committing any offences or crimes. This helps in staying ready and vigilant before the crime rather than solving mysteries once they are committed. It ensures a higher degree of safety and stronger public trust in the policing department.
- Risk assessments: this is an algorithmic way of establishing whether or not the suspect will appear for a hearing in the court, whether there is a likelihood of them committing crimes and offenses in the future and whether or not they will commit crimes of violent nature in the future. This technology facilitates the judiciary in making fair decisions and determining appropriate sentences.
- Facial recognition: as is self-explanatory, Facial recognition techniques use biometrics to build or form clearer facial features from photographs or videos. This technique also becomes more successful because it not only constructs a face, it also and matches it to the known faces in a wide database, making personal identification of a criminal easier.
- Data extraction: This technique is also widely in use for it is an algorithmic way of successfully cracking passwords on digital devices. It gives the Police easy access to the personal documents of a convict or suspect for better evidencing.
- Probabilistic genotyping: This is a complex technology used in comparing DNA results even when the DNA information is not of a high enough quality to be easily tested under traditional methods.
- Evidence collection: This category includes all day to day uses of traditional technologies like using CCTV cameras for surveillance, using devices to detect guns, knives and other potential weapons from a distance, etc. It also includes the new Big Data technologies which is an umbrella term for all technologies used in data storage, data mining from extremely he databases, data sharing, data framework for investigative and transformative purposes and data visualization. Apps like “Solve a Crime” are also under use, in which police departments and retailers nationwide are expected to post unsolved crime mysteries to receive suggestions and tips towards the investigation from the community. Rewards are given to the ones providing evidence helpful in actual arrests.
- Safety of suspects: Apps are also created for the protection of suspects who are being arrested, for example, the “I’m Getting Arrested” app was launched in 2011 by Jason Van Aden as a “panic button” that helps the suspect send a broadcast message to several family members and friends when they are being arrested.
Today even start-ups are using technologies in subtler ways to protect the rights of criminals and to break the loop of them being incarcerated and re-incarcerated due to lack of vocational or employable training. We will discuss two of the numerous such undertakings.
- The Last Mile: this is a 6-month program undertaken by Chris Redlitz and his wife and business partner Beverly Parenti to teach the jail inmates of San Quentin State Prison, how to code. Knowing coding makes them highly employable. They used technology to create more skilled labor out of the incarcerated population. This program helps the prisoners get internships and jobs once they are released with a newly inculcated skill and work ethic.
- Promise: this start-up was undertaken by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and Diana Frappier to “harness the power of technology, human created design and innovation” to address mass incarcerations in the US. They work towards providing technological tools to released prisoners, government officials interacting with them, and for officials who wish to make more informed decisions. They are also working on building an app that can provide “liberty and justice of all”.
To sum it up, we have explored the brighter side of having artificial intelligence employed in the field of criminal justice. However, it has a downside too. Artificial intelligence can also be illegally used on a lot of levels. There are severe privacy, security and civil rights violations in collecting personal information of people. The algorithms might be successful yet illegal because they might discriminate on the basis of colour, sex or religion which is seemingly done for more accurate detection but violate the rights to equal security for all, usually enshrined in most constitutions.
Hence, with judicious and legal use, technology can make criminal justice easier and more accountable. However, it can become a nightmare if placed in the wrong hands. Under the influence of the current technological bonanza, however, it is perhaps impossible to not integrate technology in this field in the fast-approaching future.