AI and Reducing Racial-Bias In Charging Crimes

San Francisco has announced the implementation of what they call a “bias mitigation tool”. Essentially, using an artificial intelligent algorithm, the tool is able to automatically censor information from prosecutors regarding the suspects race so that the chances of a suspect being convicted of a crime due to racial bias is significantly lowered. The tool is said to be ready for operation form the 1st of July.

Not only is the tool capable of censoring information such as race but also facial features such as the eye and hair colour. Furthermore, the artificial intelligent algorithm is smart enough to censor out information that can be used to infer that the suspect is a person of colour. Such information could include the name, location and neighbourhood of the suspect.

San Francisco District Attorney, George Gascon said that “When you look at the people incarcerated in this country, they’re going to be disproportionately men and women of color.” Additionally, he pointed out that seeing a name such as Hernandez means that the prosecutor can infer that the suspect is highly likely of Latino descent, this could potentially result in a more biased outcome when giving sentences, fines, etc.

The AI algorithm censors out information that prosecutors can use to infer the race of a suspect.

The AI algorithm censors out information that prosecutors can use to infer the race of a suspect.

The “anti-racial bias” tool was built by Alex Chohlas-Wood and his team at the Stanford Computational Policy Lab. Wood stated that the tool was basically just a web app that incorporates multiple algorithms to automatically censor information on a police report, capable of recognising key words words in the report using computer vision and replacing them with more vague and less revealing alternatives such as: Location, Officer #1, etc.

This tool is one among many tools that have high potential. Essentially, artificial intelligence is being used in tackling racism and racial bias. The applications of artificial intelligence extend beyond the world of just computing and is proving to be highly useful in combatting racism, especially in a day and age where we should have zero tolerance for racism and discrimination against any people of colour or minority groups.

Zacharia Sharif