Race Disparities

Ultimately, though, this is an empirical question. In our bail project, we found that the algorithm can

actually reduce race disparities in the jail population. In other words, we can reduce crime, jail

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populations and racial bias – all at the same time – with the help of algorithms.

This is not some lucky happenstance. An appropriate first benchmark for evaluating the effect of

using algorithms is the existing system – the predictions and decisions already being made by

humans. In the case of bail, we know from decades of research that those human predictions can be

biased. Algorithms have a form of neutrality that the human mind struggles to obtain, at least within

their narrow area of focus. It is entirely possible—as we saw—for algorithms to serve as a force for

equity. We ought to pair our caution with hope.

 

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