Sentencing People to Crimes They Didn’t Commit Yet

In a very interesting article, Pennsylvania is considering to base criminal charges not just on what crime was committed, but also whether that person is more likely to commit a crime in the future.  How?  Judges could receive statistically derived tools knowns as risk assessments to help them decide.

These tools are already being used to predict recidivism by using statistical probabilities based on factors such as age, employment history, and prior criminal record.  But Pennsylvania may be the first state to use these risk assessment tools as part of the sentencing itself.

For example, Milton Fosque received three DUIs.  After each arrest, the risk assessment system predicts whether he would commit another crime.  However,

Fosque, however, says the chance he will commit another crime is zero. After a year in jail, he’s now out on parole and says he has been sober since he was last arrested, in 2012. He was elected to the board of the re-entry program he attended, is active at his church, and has been working on lifelong family issues with the help of a social worker. He’s even fixing up his home. “I’m not going back there,” he said of his time inside.

Fosque is quick to talk about drinking and the life choices that landed him in jail. But he also feels he owns the responsibility and effort it has taken to stay sober. He hadn’t heard of risk assessment, but after he was told that the tools were used to determine which facility he served time in and what level of supervision he received on parole, he looked them up online. “You mean to tell me they’re using statistics to determine what’s going to happen to me?” he asked. “That ain’t right.”

You should see the article.  There’s even a flash site where you can input your own features to see if you would commit a crime in the future.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
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