We seek to apply data science to the field of criminal justice, working with jurisdictions to improve their use of risk assessments, while promoting the ideals of transparency and fairness.
The Center for Court Innovation is committed to improving decision-making in the criminal justice process. When used carefully and ethically, risk assessments can facilitate more informed decisions on bail and pretrial detention. At a time when pretrial detention has been identified as a primary driver of jail populations, risk assessments have contributed to important reforms, promoting the diversion of defendants from jail.
At the Center, we have developed risk assessments for use with specific defendant populations (such as the Criminal Court Assessment Tool), and offer expert assistance for criminal justice practitioners working to implement their own instruments. We are also committed to advancing an informed public conversation about both the potential and the challenges of risk assessment. To this end, we have hosted dialogues bringing together policy-makers with data scientists and ethicists and examined the issue of how risk assessment impacts racial disparities.
MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge
The MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge seeks to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.
Rethinking Rikers Island
By providing support to the Independent Commission on Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, we're aiding in the effort to reduce New York City’s jail population and close Rikers Island.
Drawing on a case study of more than 175,000 defendants in New York City, this report concludes concerns over risk assessments perpetuating racial disparities in pretrial decisions are real. However, at least in the New York City example, it finds a more targeted use of risk assessments could both significantly reduce pretrial detention and alleviate racial disparities. But realizing that potential requires jurisdictions to think "beyond the algorithm"—what do they want to use a risk assessment for?
This article, which appeared in the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, seeks to address a gap in the fierce debate over pretrial risk assessment: the role of the defender. The authors contend defense attorneys can challenge the data science undergirding risk assessments and use their implementation as a lever for renegotiating the “going rates"—the default rules that expedite the disposition of cases and drive plea-bargaining in a given jurisdiction.
Reversing the United States' reliance on incarceration requires rethinking current approaches to offenses involving violence. Judges can play a unique role. In October 2018, the Center for Court Innovation, with support from the Joyce Foundation and Latham & Watkins LLP, convened a small group of judicial leaders to grapple with the challenges of alternative sentencing for cases involving violent behavior.
Bail reform and risk assessment algorithms have been closely entwined, but amid concerns about the role of algorithms in criminal justice, Julian Adler, our director of policy and research, says, "It raises a lot of questions about what’s to come."