Main Menu McGoughLawP.C., L.L.O.
Contact Our Firm:
402-614-8655
After Hours/Emergency:
402-660-6909
  • Nebraska’s Go-To Sex Crimes Defense Firm
  • Nebraska’s Go-To Drug Crimes Defense Firm
  • Nebraska’s Go-To Criminal Defense Firm

The problems with algorithms when used for sentencing

In September 2016, Nebraska launched a statewide automated sentencing calculation software system. The system was designed to more accurately calculate inmate release dates. Prior to then the calculations were done manually, with a pencil, paper and calculator. Miscalculation was a problem, resulting in the early release of prisoners.

Weighty numbers

Most people take for granted the use of algorithms to calculate aspects of everyday life. For small things such as music recommendations or online ads selections, algorithms are not necessarily problematic. The problem with relying on algorithms for life changing decisions is that the mathematical equations are not impartial or completely accurate.

The algorithms in sentencing calculate a person’s likelihood to reoffend. The system rates a person on a scale of high to low risk for committing another crime. Age and prior convictions are the biggest determining factors in recidivism rates. Judges are meant to use the score to determine jail time.

Inherent racism

The prediction rate is not always accurate and tends to favor white offenders. The algorithm often incorrectly labels black offenders as higher risk to reoffend. Several studies criticizing the practice found it is mathematically impossible for the algorithm to be fair. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated the use of risk scores, “may exacerbate unwarranted and unjust disparities that are already far too common in our criminal justice system and in our society”.

Importance of human judgment

While a judge may have inherent personal bias, their duty is to hand out impartial judgment. Other risk recidivism factors not always reflected in a calculation include community ties and a history of appearing at court proceedings. Judges should look at all aspects of an offender’s case before determining a sentence.

Using an accurate computer generated risk score removes human bias, resulting in a fairer criminal justice system. However, until the calculations are accurate, a recidivism rate score should not be the only determining factor for sentencing calculation.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  • BBB Accredited Business
  • 10 Best 2016 Client Satisfaction American Institute Of Criminal Law Attorneys

Back To Top

Success Stories

  • Defendant was charged with sexual assault of a minor. At the deposition of the alleged victim, our firm got the alleged victim to confess that she made the whole thing up. Charges were dropped against our client.
  • Defendant was charged with possessing a large quantity of marijuana. Following a complete investigation by our firm, the State agreed to dismiss all charges against our client.
  • Defendant was charged with embezzling more than $300,000.00, from a previous employer. At the deposition of the alleged victim, our firm highlighted a number of inconsistencies and questionable statements. The State agreed to dismiss all charges against our client.
  • Defendant was charged with child abuse resulting in death. Following the investigation of our firm, depositions of key witnesses and presentation of our findings to the prosecutor, the State agreed to dismiss the charges against our client.
  • Defendant was charged with carrying a concealed weapon. The matter proceeded to trial and the jury found our client Not Guilty.

What Our Clients Say About Us

  • “Jim, Thank you for all of your help over the past couple weeks. I cannot emphasize enough how much better I have felt after receiving your help. Keeping my record clean as possible means a lot to me and I couldn’t have done it without you, thank you!” -TP
  • “Jim, It's always a pleasure to see you in court. Your effective, professional representation of your clients is so helpful.” -LW
  • “Jim, On behalf of the V family, please allow me to offer a HUGE thank you for your exemplary legal representation - especially considering you took on this case a mere 5 months ago. ” -CV
  • “Thank you so much Jim for everything you have been doing on my case, you are greatly appreciated. I will contact you if anything else comes up//until then God bless you! ” -SH
  • “Jim, thank you for everything. After I was resentenced I became eligible for camp custody. I am now on the RDAP list and doing fine” -MH
  • “JThank you so much for writing back. I read your response and I want you to know I completely trust you” -KV