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Flaws Plague Tool Meant to Help Low-Risk Federal Prisoners Win Early Release

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A prisoner looks out of his jail window in the federal detention center in Miami.

The Justice Department finished the first version of the Pattern algorithm in a rush because of a tight deadline from Congress. It then had to make tweaks after finding Pattern suffered from math and human errors.

Credit: Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has found persistent flaws in an algorithm used to qualify low-risk federal prisoners for early release, including racial bias against non-White felons.

The Pattern algorithm overpredicted the risk that many Black, Hispanic, and Asian prisoners would commit new crimes or violate their paroles, and underpredicted the risk of recidivism among certain inmates of color.

The DOJ determined some of Pattern's disparities could be mitigated, but acknowledged that could induce less-accurate risk predictions, while having the algorithm factor in race might raise other legal issues.

From NPR
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