Data driven sentencing

The Herald reports:

Punishments dished out by judges could soon be influenced by cutting-edge computer modelling on offenders’ behaviour.

More than a million dollars will be spent on a system that will help indicate what could happen to criminals later in life depending on the severity of their punishment.

Judges have already been told that in certain cases a fine could be a better option than community work, after analysts found criminals getting the latter were more likely to reoffend and rely on the dole.

Justice Minister Amy Adams believes the work could radically change the way policymakers, judges and the general public think about the balance between rehabilitation and punishment.

“It’s almost amazing that, to date, it has been done more on a societal instinct, really, as to what we think is right.

“For the first time now Government is starting to use information it has across sectors, across agencies in a much more analytical way. I think this will inform not just policy, but inform a good discussion amongst judges around the sorts of options they take.”

High-level advice about the effect of long-term jailing on reoffending was already available, Ms Adams said, but the development of actuarial-type modelling would give much more detail.

Information such as an offender’s age and criminal history could be matched with possible sentencing or rehabilitative options to see the likely outcomes.

That’s a great idea. Data is not a substitute for judgment, but can play a key role is more informed decisions and probability of impact.

A key part of the data is the offender’s criminal history. A first or second time offender may react better to a fine, while more recividist offenders will not.

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