Ben Winters

  • Hosted by Electronic Privacy Information Center
  • Sponsored by Philip M. Stern Fellowship
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University
  • Issue area Technology
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Ben will understand and combat the inherit biases in both the underlying data and algorithms used in the criminal justice system in order to inspire equal administration of the law.

The increasing reliance on data and algorithms to make decisions about the length and severity of punishment among other important determination is an under-appreciated trend in the criminal justice system today. One example is the algorithm used to determine recidivism risk and to set bail, commonly referred to as a “risk assessment,” which has been shown to have disparate impacts on people of color. Other algorithms are used to determine eligibility for government benefits and more. Yet despite the increasingly significant role that these algorithms play in our justice system, they operate largely in a black box. Bringing them to light and instituting proper accountability and testing procedures will be essential to control the disparate impact these systems are having on underrepresented and over-incarcerated communities.

Fellowship Plans

In order to reach these goals, Ben will use a variety of tools including: using Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to understand the algorithms and their underlying contracts, working with technologists and other organizations to develop realistic standards for accountability, development, and testing of the algorithms, and educating the affected communities as to the impact the technologies are having on them.

Media

An Algorithm That Grants Freedom, or Takes It Away

Algorithms Were Supposed to Fix the Bail System. They Haven't

Going back to work or school? An algorithm may warn you to keep your distance from others

Technology Adoption Around the Criminal Justice System is a Tightrope

The capabilities that algorithms have to improve impartiality and efficiency within the courts and policing are vast and exciting—but can’t come at the cost of equality, transparency, and understanding in order to mitigate the perpetuation of inequitable incarceration.

Ben Winters /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

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