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Risk assessment tools may be inherently flawed

Texas residents who have been taken into custody may find that their fates are determined by risk assessment tools. These tools are used by judges to determine if a person should be released on bail or held until further notice. A person's risk score is determined partially the crime that he or she is charged with and partially by demographic information. However, the process used to determine that score has been called racist by some.

An analysis by the Center for Court Innovation found that this process is full of implicit biases. This is because the data itself is taken from a system that has a number of biases itself. In a study by ProPublica, it was determined that black defendants were more likely to be incorrectly labeled as high risk. The study looked at risk scores given to individuals who were charged with crimes in Florida's Broward County.

However, it is worth pointing out that some scholars have taken issue with the study's results. The Center for Court Innovation study created a theoretical tool to see if it could predict the likelihood of a defendant in New York City offending again in the future. It found that 25% of those who were improperly labeled as a high risk were black. Only 10% of white defendants were incorrectly labeled as a high risk.

Anyone who is facing a criminal charge could be required to wait in jail until their case is heard. However, an attorney may be able to convince a judge that an individual is not a flight risk or a risk to commit new crimes. This may be done by pointing to the lack of a prior criminal record, a full-time job or other personal or professional ties to the community.

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