LANCASTER, Pennsylvania. When it comes to sentencing, judges have been using an algorithm known as the COMPAS scale. According to the Atlantic, the algorithm claims to be able to predict a person’s risk of recidivism. The algorithm offers judges suggestions for sentencing based on the risk that the person will commit another crime. Individuals deemed to have a high risk of committing another crime often receive the higher-end sentencing. In cases where judges have immense discretion in how long a person goes to jail, the algorithm can have a big impact on how many more years or months a person will spend behind bars.

Yet, COMPAS uses a proprietary algorithm, which means that its methods for determining risk are not known to the public. Some have been questioning whether judges have been trusting the system too much, resulting in people getting thrown behind bars for longer periods of time than they should. While algorithms seem like hard science, they are limited by the variables the writers of the formulas allow. According to ProPublica, the COMPAS risk assessment shows a bias against black offenders, giving them longer sentences than whites who may have more serious criminal backgrounds.

Judges are asked to look at each defendant individually to determine his or her rehabilitation needs during sentencing. COMPAS’s algorithms, when used, take out the human assessment, and put in place an algorithm many have found to be biased. ProPublica found that COMPAS’s scores were unreliable in predicting a defendant’s likelihood of committing future crimes. In fact, black defendants were twice as likely to be flagged as possible future criminals over whites. Some of the criteria the company uses to determine future crime rates include education level and whether the person holds a job.

The reality is that if you’re facing sentencing in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, judges may have some discretion in how long you go to jail or whether you are given probation or other rehabilitation options instead of jail. Having a qualified criminal defense lawyer on your side during the process can make a difference. Barry G. Goldman, Esquire: Attorney at Law is a criminal defense lawyer who works hard to present the best possible case to the courts. From trial to sentencing, our firm works closely with defendants to help them get the best possible outcome for their case.

While algorithms for sentencing claim to put an unbiased eye on the sentencing process, the reality is that sentencing can be complex and many factors should be considered. Many believe that sentencing should be performed on a case by case basis and not be outsourced to an algorithm. If you are facing a criminal charge or sentencing in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you. The decisions made in court can have an immense impact on your life. Visit our website to learn more about how a lawyer can help you.