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County DA Pilots Race-Blind Charging Algorithm


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Blind Justice.

The Yolo County, CA, District Attorneys Office has been using the algorithm since May as part of its race-blind charging program.

Credit: Government Computer News

The Yolo County, CA, District Attorney's (DA) Office has incorporated a redaction algorithm developed by the Stanford Computational Policy Laboratory (SCPL) into its digital case management system to analyze racial bias in charging decisions.

SCPL's Alex Chohlas-Wood said it was important "to get digital copies of the [police] narratives, so that we could actually run automated redaction on these narratives."

After redacting all racial indicators from the narratives, the algorithm inserts a placeholder, like "Suspect 1," instead of a name.

Yolo County's deputy DA then answers questions from the program to rate redaction quality and the likelihood of the case being charged, and the office reviews the unredacted report plus previously withheld information like rap sheets.

Should the deputy DA change the charging decision after viewing the report, the algorithm requests an explanation; SCPL compiles and analyzes data from each case to determine whether bias influenced the decision.

From Government Computer News
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