February 03, 2020 Feature

Artificial Intelligence Stepping into Our Courts: Scientific Reliability Gatekeeping of Risk Assessments

By Judge Stephanie Domitrovich

Artificial intelligence–based instruments, in the form of risk assessments, are entering our federal and state courtrooms to assist in sentencing and bail decisions. Risk assessments have a central role in sentencing and ongoing bail reforms and in assisting judges to make more objective decisions.1 Risk assessments rely on statistical correlations between a group trait and that group’s criminal offending rate derived from empirical research. For instance, low-risk offenders can be identified and diverted for alternative community-based consequences rather than imposing expensive, lengthy prison terms. Legislators and executive branch leaders are advocating for more use of these tools, and the courts are responding in various ways.

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