Artificial January 2009 and Journal of Quantitative Criminology

Artificial intelligence is increasingly becoming part of  everyday life all over the world. People can implement artificial intelligence to assist society in a multitude of ways. Across the country, artificial intelligence is increasingly being implemented into law enforcement. One way that artificial intelligence can be implemented into law enforcement is by accessing a criminal defendant’s likelihood that they will become a reoffender.

This is done through the use of risk assessment algorithms, many of which are already in use in several different states. Rehabilitation and what happens after a criminal is released plays a huge role in whether the individual will reoffend or not. According to the Expert Panel on Adult Offender “Assessing offender risk levels and needs is a crucial component of effective programming.”      One such algorithm currently in use is the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS). COMPAS has been peer?reviewed and published in a number of professional journals including Criminal Justice and Behavior January 2009 and Journal of Quantitative Criminology June 2008.

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COMPAS  is a research-based, risk and needs assessment tool for criminal justice practitioners in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to assist them in the placement, supervision, and case management of offenders in community and secure settings. . It is designed to incorporate key scales from somee of the most renowned theoretical explanations of crime and delinquency including General Theory of Crime, Criminal Opportunity/Lifestyle Theories, Social Learning Theory, Subculture Theory, Social Control Theory, Criminal Opportunities/Routine Activities Theory and Strain Theory.  It also helps correctional staff in assigning the correct inmates to the correct programs at the optimal time based on individual risk and needs assessments, and helps in reducing the likelihood that the inmate will reoffend upon being reintegrated into society. COMPAS was designed by Northpointe to allow for test administration flexibility. COMPAS consists of a series of questions used to determine the overall risk potential and criminal related needs of an individual. There are several data gathering options which are all valid. The offender may fill out the self?report section on their own, there may be a scripted interview, in which questions are asked word by word, the interviewer may also use a guided discussion format.

A COMPAS assessment can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour depending on the offender and the style used.  It also includes information on the inmate’s history of substance abuse, education, family background, criminal activity, and role in society. COMPAS is designed to be user-friendly, even for those with little computer experience or education and it is in widespread use in prison settings, in jails, and in probation and parole offices. COMPAS is used to target the highest risk offenders. Research has shown that offenders with different levels of risk to reoffend tend to respond in different ways to rehabilitation programming.

Assessing offenders’ risk to reoffend is a very important part of effective programming which allows assignment of criminals to programs that will most benefit them and their specific needs. This allows COMPAS to give the highest priority to those with high and moderate risk of  reoffending. It assigns low risk offenders with rehabilitation programs that focus on work, life skills, and personal growth rather than rehabilitation treatment programs, which research suggests that intensive rehabilitation treatment programs for low-risk offenders have a minimal reduction or even an increase in the risk that they will reoffend. It also provides short-term prisoners with reentry services and reintegration skills training rather than rehabilitative treatment programs since most rehabilitation treatment programs require the offender to participate in the program for at least six months to gain any measurable and long lasting benefits. All of this ensures that each individual offender is catered to with their own specific needs and characteristics to determine the most appropriate steps to take in order for them to be reintegrated into society.      Another example of AI being used in the correctional system is the Parole Violation Decision Making Instrument (PVDMI) which was a pilot project launched in four counties in California in November 2008.

a. The PVDMI determines a response to a parole violation based on the offender’s risk level and the severity of the violation in an attempt to provide structure to the decision making process. Factors included in the Parole Violation Decision Making Instrument include a parolee risk assessment, an assessment of the seriousness of the violation, an assessment of the intensity of responses, and an assessment of mitigating factors. It is intended that by initiating appropriate consequences for parole violations, parolee recidivism will be decreased.


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