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Actuarial Methods in the Criminal Law

Actuarial Methods in the Criminal Law

(p.7) Chapter One Actuarial Methods in the Criminal Law
Against Prediction
University of Chicago Press

This chapter first presents four cases which illustrate one of the most striking trends in law enforcement and punishment at the turn of the twenty-first century: actuarial methods have grown exponentially in the criminal justice system. Risk assessment, algorithms, and criminal profiles now permeate the field of crime and punishment. The same trend is present in a number of other criminal law contexts, including the increased popularity of selective incapacitation, use of risk assessment for setting bail, predictions of future dangerousness in capital sentencing, and the notorious three-strikes laws passed in California and elsewhere. The chapter reviews the actuarial debate and argues that the problems that plague racial profiling are problems about criminal profiling more generally. Actuarial methods in the criminal justice field produce hidden distortions with significant costs for society. This is followed by discussions of how the actuarial debate is about the mathematics of criminal profiling, identifiable social costs, and epistemic distortions. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords:   law enforcement, criminal justice system, acturial methods, punishment, criminal profiling, social costs, risk assessment

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