In November of 2010, a situation was brought to the attention of the Queens County court system that they found disturbing. The situation involved a discrepancy in the handling of juvenile proceedings. A New York Drug Crime Lawyer said the courts had been using a computer generated report from the New York Department of Probation that prepared a numerical value that was supposed to predict the recidivism rate of juvenile offenders. This rate was then used to determine if the offender needed high supervision or no supervision from the Department of Probation.
The problem was brought to the attention of the courts by a defense attorney who became concerned about the supervision level that was recommended for his client. He began to do the math manually and discovered that the program was written to discriminate against male offenders. The program assigned a numerical score to several risk factors that were considered a sign that the offender might commit the same or similar offenses in the future. In this case, the computer program assigned fifteen points if the offender was a male. That meant that from the beginning, a male offender was considered in need of more supervision than a female offender who had committed the same crime, or even one that was more serious. The fifteen points that were assigned solely based on the gender of the offender was clearly gender discrimination. After evaluating all of the other risk factors, it became obvious that the risk factor appointment of an additional fifteen points to male offenders, made a significant difference in their chances for a less restrictive probationary regime.
The fact that the rate could increase by fifteen points solely based on gender was so offensive to this defense attorney and he presented eight cases that demonstrated the gender bias that was being committed by the use of this computer program to evaluate juvenile offenders. The Juvenile Department of Probation defended the computer system by claiming that the point system was merely an evaluation tool and that it would not be appropriate to disclose the exact process that was used to evaluate each offender. A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said the court did not accept this explanation and ordered the disclosure of the process. The court, upon discovering the obvious gender bias associated with the use of the program required the Juvenile Department of Probation to explain why it was defending the process. The Department presentatives claimed that they were attempting to find a way of evaluating each offender that limited the individual influence of probation officers in an attempt to remove personal bias from the process.
They maintained that the use of the computerized system seemed like the best way that they had to eliminate individual bias from the process by appointing numerical scores to different indicators that a person would recidivate. They stated that they were unaware that such a large numerical score was assigned solely based on the gender of the offender with no other reasoning associated to it. A Nassau County Drug Possession Lawyer said they continued to maintain that the process was the best one that they had at their disposal to minimize individual prejudice in the system.
The court system disagreed. The department contended that the computer system was merely a tool. That it was one of several different tools that they use to evaluate an offender before court and that it is not the sole deciding factor in any case. In fact, they contend that the probation officer has the authority to disregard the recommendations of this evaluation tool. However, they are required to present several documents to the department to explain why they decided to disregard the recommendation. A Queens Drug Possession Lawyer said the probation officer at the point where he presented the documents disregarding the recommendation would take on a responsibility for the conduct of the offender, if he proved wrong. The court determined that the tool was biased and needed to be replaced.
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