White House Challenges Artificial Intelligence Experts to Reduce Incarceration Rates

Jason Shueh at GovTech: “The U.S. spends $270 billion on incarceration each year, has a prison population of about 2.2 million and an incarceration rate that’s spiked 220 percent since the 1980s. But with the advent of data science, White House officials are asking experts for help.

On Tuesday, June 7, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Lynn Overmann, who also leads the White House Police Data Initiative, stressed the severity of the nation’s incarceration crisis while asking a crowd of data scientists and artificial intelligence specialists for aid.

“We have built a system that is too large, and too unfair and too costly — in every sense of the word — and we need to start to change it,” Overmann said, speaking at a Computing Community Consortium public workshop.

She argued that the U.S., a country that has the highest amount incarcerated citizens in the world, is in need of systematic reforms with both data tools to process alleged offenders and at the policy level to ensure fair and measured sentences. As a longtime counselor, advisor and analyst for the Justice Department and at the city and state levels, Overman said she has studied and witnessed an alarming number of issues in terms of bias and unwarranted punishments.

For instance, she said that statistically, while drug use is about equal between African-Americans and Caucasians, African-Americans are more likely to be arrested and convicted. They also receive longer prison sentences compared to Caucasian inmates convicted of the same crimes….

Data and digital tools can help curb such pitfalls by increasing efficiency, transparency and accountability, she said.

“We think these types of data exchanges [between officials and technologists] can actually be hugely impactful if we can figure out how to take this information and operationalize it for the folks who run these systems,” Obermann noted.

The opportunities to apply artificial intelligence and data analytics, she said, might include using it to improve questions on parole screenings, using it to analyze police body camera footage, and applying it to criminal justice data for legislators and policy workers….

If the private sector is any indication, artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques could be used to interpret this new and vast supply of law enforcement data. In an earlier presentation by Eric Horvitz, the managing director at Microsoft Research, Horvitz showcased how the company has applied artificial intelligence to vision and language to interpret live video content for the blind. The app, titled SeeingAI, can translate live video footage, captured from an iPhone or a pair of smart glasses, into instant audio messages for the seeing impaired. Twitter’s live-streaming app Periscope has employed similar technology to guide users to the right content….(More)”