Life Imitates Art: “minority Report” Software Predicting Crime

in Criminal Defense, on

The 2002 action film “Minority Report,” starring Tom Cruise, forwarded the idea of a future in which criminal activity was predicted in advance by computer programs, giving authorities the ability to seemingly prevent criminals’ acts before they were ever carried out. While the film was a success thanks in large part to its captivating visuals and star power, the central concept had a pronounced impact on many viewers.

The software-controlled justice system of “Minority Report” appears closer at hand than many expected. Already implemented in parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania, a computer program that relies on a complex algorithm to predict convicts’ statistical likelihood of repeating a criminal offense is garnering increased national attention.

Developed by a University of Pennsylvania criminologist who claims that the software will help to reduce murder and homicide rates nationwide, the program draws on a data set of over 60,000 crimes. Variables including geography, past criminal record, and age are cross-referenced when an imprisoned convict is up for parole, and the software provides a verdict as to, at least according to past trends, whether or not the person ought to be released or kept behind bars for more time.

Use of the software may expand into the setting of bail amounts and even the extent of sentencing severity in the not so distant future.

Not everyone in the field of criminal justice is pleased with the predictive software’s implementation. Numerous inmate rights advocates have expressed anxiety over the chance that the program will take human judgment out of the parole and sentencing processes, putting a person’s chance to return to free society at the mercy of a long series of equations. The chance that false positives may arise, keeping reformed and goodly people behind bars longer than necessary is also a concern.

As technology becomes more and more integrated into the criminal justice process, those who have been charged with a crime, of any nature, need to avail themselves of the most experienced and capable defense resources available. So much is on the line in every case, and the help of a criminal defense attorney will only become more valuable as technology gains ground in our courtrooms.

Source: Wired, “U.S. Cities Relying on Precog Software to Predict Murder,” Kim Zetter, Jan. 10, 2013