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Innocent Until Predicted Guilty 430

theodp writes "Gizmodo has an angry piece on IBM helping Florida to predict how delinquent your child's going to be. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has decided to start using IBM predictive analytics software to help them determine which of the 85,000 kids who enter their system each year poses the biggest future threat. From IBM's sales pitch: 'Predictive analytics gives government organizations worldwide a highly-sophisticated and intelligent source to create safer communities by identifying, predicting, responding to and preventing criminal activities. It gives the criminal justice system the ability to draw upon the wealth of data available to detect patterns, make reliable projections and then take the appropriate action in real time to combat crime and protect citizens.'"
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Innocent Until Predicted Guilty

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  • Just hope... (Score:2, Insightful)

    your child doesn't fall into the minority report.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Who knows...


      IBM? Tracking people deemed troublesome to people in government?
      Invoking Godwin's Law in 3...2...1...

      • IBM? Tracking people deemed troublesome to people in government? Invoking Godwin's Law in 3...2...1...

        Yeah, that was one of my original thoughts. IBM really doesn't need this kind of PR. I grew up being told how IBM enabled the Holocaust, and they really don't need to bring that association to mind in a state with a large population of elderly Jews.

        That said, there is a big difference between tracking random citizens and essentially creating a preliminary psychological profile of juvenile offenders. By and large, I don't mind taking fingerprints and DNA from people who have been convicted in a court of law.

        • Re:Just hope... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:19AM (#31871522) Journal
          Do you think that there is any realistic chance that having a Respected Criminologist(who knows how to wear a suit that makes him look like a respected authority figure; but not a pointy-headed academic) tell the jury that the Totally Trustworthy and Extremely Sophisticated Computer System has determined that the punk-ass kid currently in the dock before you is an incipient menace won't be a completely standard part of prosecution down there within a few years?

          Despite the combined efforts of virtually every major consumer software vendor, Joe Public still somehow trusts computers and thinks of them as authoritative. DAs and prosecutors will absolutely eat that shit up, as will jurors.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by decoy256 ( 1335427 )

            Except most juvenile cases are decided before a judge, not a jury.

            In addition, IAAL and I've done plenty of Juvenile defense cases and I can tell you that some of these kids need extra help as early as possible. Far too often, the reason a kid stays in a life of crime into adulthood is because the juvenile justice system is ill-equipped and has their hands tied in how to properly deal with these cases.

            I see this as a potentially positive thing... and this is coming from a juvenile defense attorney.

      • So is there any gray area in this bad / good prediction business, or is it pretty much black and white?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BobMcD ( 601576 )

      Just hope your child doesn't fall into the minority report.

      If one or both of my sons are prone to be a criminal, I'd be glad to see it on a report before it happened.

      I'd either work like hell to change them or spy on them be the first to rat them out.

      I don't want my sons in jail, but more so I don't want my sons harming society, killing other sons and daughters, etc. I brought them into this world, and they're (at least somewhat) my responsibility.

      • Re:Just hope... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mister Whirly ( 964219 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @11:09AM (#31872230) Homepage
        Here is the deal - one of your sons may be prone to criminal activity. I am not going to tell you which one, so you are just going to have to "bite the bullet" and be a good father and raise both of them with love and respect.
    • I'm wondering if this IBM system will be able to accurately predict troublesome, trolling, or even poor quality posts on Slashdot ... like this one.
    • Re:Just hope... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gtall ( 79522 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @11:36AM (#31872568)

      Here's a thought, let IBM try it out on their own executives first. After it gets through nailing the miscreant executives in its own ranks, the U.S. Justice dept will evaluate it and see if it might be used on Wall Street firms. It must successfully weed out the Business School Product that wasted the U.S. economy first. The next test will be to try it out on the designers of this valuable product. If it catches the social misfits that have worked on this software, then maybe the U.S. could consider it for kids. However, we'll want to see a cleaned up IBM, Wall Street, and developer ranks first.

  • by Great Big Bird ( 1751616 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:54AM (#31871162)
    It seems to me that if the government thinks it can predict these things and takes certain actions in prevention, it might actually cause the problem that is predicted, and thus validate the method.
    • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:59AM (#31871240)
      Uh, this is more like using actuary tables to predict your likelyhood of having an accident and adjusting your rates based on that statistic model. It can probably be used to sort kids into things like soft first time offenders programs, bootcamps, or juvenile detention.
      • by DreamsAreOkToo ( 1414963 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:09AM (#31871372)

        It can probably be helpful in the same vein as the patriot act, warrant-less wiretapping, and many other government uber-powers.

      • Which is all well and good if it works, and there are some decent prediction models and a whole lot of terrible ones.

        It would be nice and comforting, as this thing moves along, if data about accuracy of the predictions was made available, but I doubt it will be.

        • by afidel ( 530433 )
          FOIA requests should make it possible to track the reliability is someone wants to put in the effort.
        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:22AM (#31871560) Journal
          If Sheriff Joe Arpaio's popularity is anything to go by, I suspect information on predictive accuracy, even if available, will have depressingly little impact on public opinion.

          A disturbing number of people seem to operate on the belief that there are two kinds of defendants: "Guilty" and "Guilty; but goddam liberal bleeding hear trial lawyers got them off on a technicality".
      • Your likelihood of having an accident is based on age, postal code, prior accidents, convictions, and certain health conditions and medications.

        In other words things that don't predict your likelihood of having an accident, but the general population's.

        In other words, pigeonholing.

        In other words, conscientiousness doesn't pay off.

        In other words, another nail in the coffin for America's education system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zerth ( 26112 )

      It has already been shown that informing teachers that students scored high or low on a fake predictive test will cause a significant change in test scores, so I imagine that this will probably work, regardless of the predictive ability of the system.

      Cops will spend more time in these areas and less likely to let identified people off on a warning, thus arrests will be higher even with the same crime rate, which leads to more court cases, more convictions, perhaps higher sentences to "crack down" on "known

  • by aapold ( 753705 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:54AM (#31871168) Homepage Journal
    With IBM software we can lock threads before flame wars start....
  • by VShael ( 62735 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:55AM (#31871178) Journal

    Florida is insane, in the same way that senile demented octogenarians are insane. They never think past tomorrow, because they don't know if they're going to live until tomorrow. All that matters is today, the pudding, and Matlock.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dwiget001 ( 1073738 )

      Actually, this is not an "octogenarian" problem.

      It is a problem of having bloated and pretty much do-nothing administration.

      Disclaimer: I live in this hell-hole jokingly called "God's Waiting Room".

  • Jeeze (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:56AM (#31871188)

    You guys are being pretty hard on IBM. They're just providing computing and analytical power. You're acting like they collaborated with the Nazis or something.

  • The best part! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rotide ( 1015173 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:56AM (#31871190)
    The best part is, if the software doesn't currently consider you a "threat" we can always tweak it to push you over the threshold! Remember that come next election, or next time you purchase something we don't think you should, or even the next time you pass us and don't give us a compliment!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:58AM (#31871224)

    Do predictive analytics work for other demographics as well, e.g. middle aged white man from prominent Ivy League university running an energy company more likely to steal billions of dollars over young Latino kid living in downtown Miami?

  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <mariet@NoSPaM.got.net> on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:01AM (#31871256) Journal

    I believe the best use of this technology is as a means for monitoring our government officials and representatives (starting with the folks thinking about using it here.) It is arguable that the harm done by the average juvenile delinquent pales in comparison to the social and economic harm done by politicians and lawless officials. We should be using predictive technology keep them in check, and ensure that liberty is being preserved for future generations...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Quantos ( 1327889 )
      Unfortunately this could also lead to compulsory sterilization for certain classes of people and risk groups(which has been tried before and failed miserably). Which is not only unethical, but it removes peoples right to choose their own lives destiny. How many people will wind up with this stigma because it won't work the way they hope it will.

      There is no amount of accumulated data that will tell them which people are capable and willing to change their behavior so that they can be an integral part of
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by poena.dare ( 306891 )

      You have a point. FL's been rocked by a number of scandals where Human Services employees repeated failed to check on foster kids and the kids were starved or beaten to death. Sounds like predictive software should be used to predict which HS employees are failing to do their job.

  • It seems that all the worst things in the movies "Demolition Man" and "Minority Report" are coming true, aren't they?

  • Overblown (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:03AM (#31871292)

    Okay, all I see here is a slippery slope argument. Juvenile delinquents who have been convicted of a crime are generally sentenced to probation, attendance in educational programs, counseling, etc. The only difference here is now they're using computer models to decide which programs are most appropriate for a given youth based upon the data they put in... instead of the court making the decision based upon a less complete set of data and a less methodical prediction of what would work best for that individual.

    Now I'm not saying IBM's system works. It may or may not and that needs to be carefully studied. I have no problem, however, with computer models being used to determine which juvenile delinquents are most likely to benefit from specific programs and which are most in need of them when resources are limited. Appeals to various constitutional amendments are just empty rhetoric, given these kids have been convicted of a crime and this is part of their rehabilitation. In fact this whole article looks like an excuse for sensationalism and a reason to display cool graphics from "Minority Report". Lame Mr. Diaz.

  • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .dlrowcidamon.> on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:03AM (#31871296) Homepage
    The story doesn't give too much information, it's just a rant; I'm curious as to what "education" is going to take place; maybe it's a good thing.
  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:03AM (#31871298) Homepage Journal

    I imagine that the software is a Bayesian filter that takes in lots of seemingly unrelated factors and combines them into a score. First, yeah, I get the obvious dystopian implications - I won't argue against the awful possibilities if it were widely deployed. That said, isn't it possible that it could genuinely help some kids? Suppose those factors like increased absences and a couple of minor contacts with police indicate that Johnny is extremely likely to drop out of school. Maybe that's a good hint that someone needs to talk to Johnny and see if something correctable is going on in his life.

    • by MarbleMunkey ( 1495379 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:23AM (#31871574)

      Suppose those factors like increased absences and a couple of minor contacts with police indicate that Johnny is extremely likely to drop out of school. Maybe that's a good hint that someone needs to talk to Johnny and see if something correctable is going on in his life.

      But that's not what's happening in our schools already; Just look at the Zero Tolerance statutes!

      Do you really think that the same people who would expel a 9th grade girl for bringing a butter knife to school [go.com] can be trusted to be rational with this kind of information?

      • But that's not what's happening in our schools already; Just look at the Zero Tolerance statutes!

        Oh, I hear you and I agree completely. Like so many other things done in the name of security, the downsides are a lot easier to see than any marginal advantages.

  • It all depends... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MojoRilla ( 591502 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:08AM (#31871368)
    It all depends on what they do with this software. My reading of this article is that this is an expert system for judges who sentence juvenile offenders. Typically judges have discretion in sentencing youth. They research the background, number of offenses, etc of the offender and pick an appropriate program. However, they don't have all the data to make a better decision. Do Latino youth who committed a second non-violent offense respond better (get arrested less often in the future) to mental health treatments, mentoring programs, or incarceration?

    This system seems to automate this process. So it is possible it will save money and produce better results than the current system, while still maintaining fairness. After all, if you have committed a crime, both the maximum and minimum penalties for what you did should be fair outcomes.
    • It isn't even going that far. Apparently the system will be applied to youths who have already been sentenced, and will be used to separate the "salvageable" ones into lighter rehabilitation programs, while all the gang members and other hopeless cases continue to live lord of the flies style in juvie hall.

      That sounds pretty callous, but remember that previously the same thing was happening, only the slots were being assigned more arbitrarily, likely raising the recidivism rate in consequence, when "you
  • So if this predicts that Johnny will be a criminal later in life, we can keep him under constant watch and limit his activities. Then when all this mistreatment causes him to become a criminal, we can declare success. Reminds me of the way teachers see some students as gifted, and thus given them extra attention etc., ensuring their predictions come true, and validating their method.
  • What is the problem? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kenp2002 ( 545495 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:15AM (#31871452) Homepage Journal

    Any reason why we are angry with this? The whole point appears to identify at-risk kids and make sure they get the support they need.

    A: Kid is from a low income family
    B: Kid lives in drug ridden neighborhood
    C: Kid eats twice a day
    D: Kid is in a single parent home

    Kid is BLAH BLAH% likely to commit a violent crime.

    A is 38% weighted
    B: is 14% weighted
    C: is 17% weighted
    D: is 9% weighted

    Per $ ROI indicates that an additional $4.22 spent weekly on school lunch program (C) will save $19.22 over 10 years in reduced criminal activity.

    Blah blah blah...

    Seems par for the course...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Altus ( 1034 )

      Do we really need a computer program to tell us that kids who are growing up in inner city neighborhoods surrounded by drugs and crime need more support?

      I'm pretty sure we know that now, and we don't give them the support they need.

      The fear with regard to this system is that it will lead to punishing first time offenders more harshly if they are high risk. The first time someone who set off a "high risk" trigger gets out of his first offense counciling and goes on to commit a violent crime the media and th

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kenp2002 ( 545495 )

        Yes we do because we need to find out the real statistical weight (significance) of which regressors gives us the best return on our money.

        An excellent real world example is the disparity in blacks for sentencing. We find that it is more statstically significant that the reasons black comprise more of the prision population isn't because they are black per say, it just happens that blacks comprise more of the lower income. Income is more significant then just being black so if you want to reduce the dispari

    • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @11:52AM (#31872772)

      I think the reason why this strikes a discordant note is that no one wants to be "labeled" by a machine no matter how sophisticated. Most, I think, want a human in the loop. Even then the mechanistic idea that humans can be categorized to predict future behavior seems so wrong even if it is necessary if we are to control social problems.

  • In the past the next generation of internal "future threats" was dealt with one of two ways.
    The burn now or work to death and burn later camp lines.
    Why not sort internal populations with more care?
    Good kids get full scholarships.
    If your part of the system you should be productive.
    Stable kids get to join City Year.
    Your useful and might still get that scholarship.
    Big pharma has a chemical solution for the rest.
    Feel happy working to death over decades.
    Safer communities for all.
  • It's hard to get angry at a bunch of engineers and government civil servants taking the next logical step in pattern recognition. Everybody involved is just individually contributing to a possible aid in dealing with a social problem. Let's face it, the most widely damaging forms of "evil" are rarely done by "evil" people. The next question I would also have would be, "what is the back end in this particular predictive system?" Are the consequences for the identified person punitive or does he or she get th

  • by linzeal ( 197905 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:18AM (#31871504) Homepage Journal

    The average child's behavior does have the potential to reliably predict future social and behavior patterns for the individual; however, there are outliers of varying types who would not be well served by this attempt at divining the 'future history' of individual human beings. Here are some of the types I have noticed.

    1. Situational issues such as abuse at home that cause anger, frustration and inappropriate behavior at school. Children's brains are luckily plastic enough to rewire themselves when presented with a new environment that is far more nurturing, safe and empowering.

    2. Schools/Neighborhoods that have been left to become warrens of crime will produce children that seek criminal behavior to 'fit in', even if they are articulate and attentive in class they may be encountering overwhelming peer pressure to conform to another set of behaviors outside the classroom or face ostracization.

    3. Mentally ill children who go unmedicated can be hellions the days they don't take their meds and perfectly reasonable mature human beings when they do. The flip side of this, is dealing with the many popular NT rich kids whose parents have gotten them adderall prescriptions babbling in the back of the classroom and acting hyper aggressive on the playground.

    4. Police provoked violence/crimes. I did some student teaching in a High School which shall remain unnamed and the MO of the high school police was to find the 'troublemakers' smoking cigarettes across from the school or in the alleyways surrounding and set up a cop car on one side of them and try to herd them towards it, if they ran they tried to take them down with tackling and submission holds. The kids got suspended and charged with resisting arrest at the very least some got thrown in Juvi all for smoking a cig and being confronted by a dickish bunch of cops.

  • SPSS since 1968!!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by thijsh ( 910751 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:19AM (#31871524) Journal
    This isn't news. SPSS already exists since 1968, and is now on version 18 of the software. IBM just bought the program in 2009. For those who never heard of the program: it's a souped up Excel with advanced statistics and datamining. Here at my work (public health department in Amsterdam) they use it a lot for scientific studies of health, surveys etc. In fact the use of SPSS in the field of research is so widespread for many years already it's strange they only replaced Excel with it now...

    I'd guess Slashdot geeks would really like it since you can program some nice stuff in a pseudo SQL script language (I don't know the name of it), but if you've ever seen it you'll know that SYSMIS sorta means NULL.
  • by jayhawk88 ( 160512 ) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:24AM (#31871582)

    Gizmodo links this technology to Minority Report, and certainly not without cause, but the movie that really ought to worry you here is Gattaca. What happens to kids this software flags with a high potential for future criminal activity? If companies start taking this data seriously, a lot of them won't be hiring these kids. And while it was genetics that was the profiling mechanism in Gattaca, considering we've already cracked the human genome, it can only be a matter of time before someone decides to take a similar piece of software and run it against someone's DNA.

    • by thijsh ( 910751 )
      The 'criminal gene' has already been debunked. Reality is much more complex than such a simple fix... But you are right this is data that can be abused and has to be kept private.
    • by BobMcD ( 601576 )

      TFA says that these kids being analyzed have already been convicted of crimes. They may have trouble getting hired with or without the software, because they've already elected to be delinquent.

  • by res1216 ( 1785928 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:28AM (#31871652)
    Let's stop pretending that this is anything but a technological tool for doing what is already happening. Individuals are already differentially sentenced for all kinds of reasons, many of them terrible. Far better to use well-understood machine-learning/data-mining techniques instead of the discretion of individual judges and all its attendant biases.

    N.B. This obviously has the potential for misuse (e.g. the first time some political hack suggests it is great for preemption.), but it is not a prima facie violation of individual's rights.

    Eternal Vigilance, etc.
  • If a state has thousands of young offenders on file with necessary criminal & rehabilitation data to make predictions of future behaviour, why shouldn't they do it? I assume Florida doesn't have infinite money to spend on probation officers etc., so any tool which allows them to more effectively allocate resources has to be a good thing. That doesn't mean the IBM tool is effective and it would have to prove its worth through some kind of objective study but I don't see any reason in principle they shoul
    • If a state has thousands of young offenders on file with necessary criminal & rehabilitation data to make predictions of future behaviour, why shouldn't they do it?

      Exactly. And if some anomalous data comes down the pipe showing the prediction may have been wrong for some child who was locked away due to being convicted of pre-crime all we have to do is bury the minority report.

  • If I recall my HBO docudramas correctly, wasn't it also Florida that used data from Texas to determine who should be blocked from voting in the 2000 election? Can't Florida do any kind of analysis on their own without using tainted data to start with?
  • Let's see. Florida is going to use statistical software to try to identify children, who have already committed crimes, who are most likely to continue to commit, most-likely more serious, crimes and prevent them from going down that path through intervention services such as mentoring, counseling, and community control.

    Yes, what a horrible thing to take kids who have started down the path of a criminal life and trying to improve their lives and keep them from committing crimes, becoming drug addicts, and g

  • by oakbox ( 414095 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:34AM (#31871732) Homepage

    This was almost attempted in the early 70's. Look up the "Hartman Value Profile". It was shot down in flames, I guess the concept of Civil Rights has changed a bit since then . . .

  • When a hospital does this, they call it triage, and there is no outrage.

    If we take as given that resources are finite, then not every case of juvenile delinquency can get the full service treatment, so we must find a way to allocate resources efficiently. The point of this analysis is to estimate which cases need more intervention, and which need less.

    The teenager that is having problems with his girlfriend and acts out by picking a fight, or damaging some property, or whatever, is probably going to be fin

  • by Protoslo ( 752870 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:39AM (#31871796)
    Gizmodo breathlessly proclaims,

    "There are no naked pre-cogs inside glowing jacuzzis yet, but the Florida State Department of Juvenile Justice will use analysis software to predict crime by young delinquents, putting potential offenders under specific prevention and education programs. Goodbye, human rights!"

    Now, consider IBM's press release [ibm.com], which seems to be the only news available on this subject, and is certainly the unlinked source of Gizmodo's fit. Previously, Florida State officials were using Excel macros to sort convicted juvenile offenders into different programs, and now they will use IBM's software to do it. Whether Florida's juvenile prosecutions or unjust or not, whether their programs are effective or not, has no bearing on IBM's part in this.

    IBM has sold Florida some statistical analysis software, which they will (apparently) use to stick heavy offenders into more punitive detention programs, saving the spaces in more rehabilitative programs for newer offenders. You may think that that policy is ill-advised as well--but it is perfectly legal. At least the sorting will be (hopefully) less capricious than it was before. IBM is certainly not enabling Florida to enforce "pre-crimes" or anything of the sort. This is not even affecting the judicial sentences. Everyone being analyzed here has already been found guilty by a court.

    Prior to predictive analytics, the organization used Excel for basic analysis on projections for the number of delinquency cases they would take in, which had limited functionality. They selected IBM SPSS predictive analytics due to the ease of use and the advanced analytic capabilities.

    The organization will now utilize the new predictive analytics system as a component in many of the performance measurement analyses conducted and distributed to agency staff throughout the year. These reports assess the future of delinquency cases to evaluate what juvenile crime trends may look like in the immediate future. This information will help the organization to better plan and project staffing and other resource needs.

    IBM recently also announced that the Ministry of Justice in the United Kingdom uses predictive analytics to assess the likelihood of prisoners reoffending upon their release to help improve public safety. With predictive technology from IBM, the Ministry of Justice is analyzing hidden trends and patterns within the data. IBM SPSS predictive analytics has helped identify whether offenders with specific problems such as drug and alcohol misuse are more likely to reoffend than other prisoners.

    It sounds like the Ministry of Justice might have something a bit more Orwellian (notice "public safety") in mind, but that will be a story for another day. Now take a deep breath, and control yourselves next time Kdawson posts a link to an inflammatory and ill-informed opinion piece. A worthier title for this event might have been "IBM enables Florida Juvenile Detention System to Become Slightly Less Cruel and Arbitrary."

  • Passing judgments, no matter how much data is processed to make the decision, will be inaccurate if the writers don't have full understanding of the juvenile delinquents being judged. There always seem to be assumptions about how to interact with youth that make perfect sense to adults but result in nonsensical interaction with the children. On the rare occasion that the child tries to inform the adult of a false assumption or possible miscommunication, it's usually misinterpreted as the child not understan

  • They should be using the software to identify politician and bankers and smother them in their cribs...

    Oh, oh, they did not mean THOSE people, we liked Bernie Madoff, even if we ripped off of a couple of billion dollars from people.

    Its those bored youths who are destroying society. The ones we refuse to build parks, community centers, or have any organized activities for these kids to do so they are bored and cause trouble.


  • IBM wants to make money off the US police state by setting up this big brother, pre-crime-ware and all the while they shed 5% - 8% of their US workforce each year.

  • by nyquil superstar ( 249173 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @11:39AM (#31872624)
    Okay, I was *really* hoping that this would get crosslinked, because I'm an avid reader of Gizmodo as well as Slashdot. I also never comment in the wasteland that is the Gizmodo comment section. I also happen to have worked in Juvenile Justice for about 12 years, and (disclaimer) currently work for a major player in the exact "analytic" space that the article describes.

    Let me get this off my chest first: Jesus Diaz (the Gizmodo writer) is an idiot of the most supreme caliber. His MO on the Gizmodo is to write ill-researched inflammatory articles. Over time I have figured that these must be written solely to stir up internet frenzy and increase page views. More power to him, but it automatically disadvantages his opinions for me.

    Now that the ad-hominem is out of the way, let me get to the meat of it. The conclusions here are 100% wrong. What we do is provide Juvenile Justice departments (which is almost always Juvenile Probation) with tools, in the form of academically validated models, that help them determine which kids are at highest risk to re-offend. We're also able to determine, with a high degree of accuracy (thank you academia!) what the kids biggest needs areas are.

    So how does all of this information actually get used? It turns out that it's used in amazingly great ways. It helps keep children placed in their own homes, not in residential treatment, juvenile hall, or the state's Youth Authority. We've had jurisdictions report out-of-home placements drop by 50% after implementing our tools. It also means that a Probation Officer can focus on kids that are at a high risk to re-offend, and have minimal contact with kids that are at a low risk to re-offend. As it turns out, the PHds that come up with these tools are able to determine that having lots of contact with the criminal justice system is bad for kids that are low risk - so it really helps to know the kids that minimal intervention is the best path for. Another benefit of this sort of classification scheme (which works just as well for adults) is that the officers (who are time constrained) are able to spend more time with their higher risk kids because they aren't spending as much time with their low risk kids. This probably seems obvious to most readers, but I'm surprised by the number of commenters that don't get that last point.

    My final point is that these kids are already getting put into treatment programs, like anger management, or drug counseling, or teenage parent classes. That happens regardless of whether or not a jurisdiction uses software like ours. What this type of analytic software does is help take away the "gut instinct" part of program placement and give the officer a little more guidance into what programs will be most effective. If you can only send a kid to one program, why make it an anger management class when, after an assessment, you are able to determine that it's actually his drug use and poor school attendance that are his biggest risk factors?

    So in the end, this isn't about pre-crime, or thought-crime, or any sort of Orwellian conspiracy. It is, quite literally, about helping place minors (and adults) that have already committed crimes against people or their community, into programs that have the statistically best chance of helping them not commit another crime. The best part is, the followup data from jurisdictions using this type of software suggests that it works, with fewer placements and less recidivism.

    Oh, and Jesus Diaz is a idiot (man that feels good.)

  • FTA

    And why should the government decide who goes to an specific prevention program or who doesn't based on what a computer says? The fact is that, even if the software was 99.99% accurate, there will be always an innocent person who will be F***ed. And that is exactly why we have something called due process and the presumption of innocence. That's why those things are not only in the United States Constitution, but in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights too.

    Nice rant and straw man. They're not talking about throwing these kids in jail. Instead, targetting people at higher risk of following a criminal path, and giving them extra efforts to steer them from that path.

    ISure. Some will argue that these juvenile delinquents were already convicted for other crimes, so hey, there's no harm. This software will help prevent further crimes. It will make all of us safer? But would it? Where's the guarantee of that? Why does the state have to assume that criminal behavior is a given?

    Why would you naively assume that criminal behavior is no more likely among a population so identified than among the rest of the population? They're not just throwing allof the state's youth into the system to churn out who the "defectives" are. These are people who have a) already started down a criminal path or b) come from homes so screwed up that they had to be removed for their own safety. Statistically, both of these groups have a considerably reduced chance of a normal life. If there's a reliable means of figuring out which subset of those groups are more prone than others, and to take active steps to help them prevent it, why would you not do it? Why would you don the rose-colored glasses and pretend that they can just step out of Juvie and lead a fully normal life, when the odds are stacked against it?

    Ok, I've got my flame-retardant suit on. Let's have it...

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:07PM (#31875464) Homepage Journal

    Lets actually think about this instead of just coming up with reasons to force it into are preconceived notions.

    If there are a set of factors to indicate risk, then this can be a good thing.

    Steps can be taken to changing factors and reduce risk.

    For example: One factor could be determine by a lack of social skills. That child could be taught the normal social behaviours. Improving the child's life as an adult. No we are not talking about making everyone the same. Another example, there is a strong correlation between torturing animals and being a psychopath. If you find you child torturing animals, then you should get help for that child. Before you pound you meat stumps against the key board, I am not saying torturing animals causes it, only that it's a sign, so put away your misguided 'correlation is no causation' standard reply, it does not apply here.

    I know minority report is a fun comparison, but the movies response to 'pre-crime' is nonsense. Plus that's not what we are talking about.

  • by Fractal Dice ( 696349 ) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:25PM (#31875736) Journal
    "Mrs. King, we have determined that your son Martin is statistically likely to grow up to be a troublemaker. We advise you begin Prozac treatments to curb these tendencies and allow him to live a normal life. Now please move to be back of the bus."

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!