Eric Loomis, 34, was once convicted of a sexual crime. In 2013 he was again in court. He was caught with a car that was previously used in a shooting.
He was imprisoned for six years. The decision was made by a judge, though based on a recommendation by the software Compas, an artificial intelligence. It calculated how likely it is that Loomis could again commit a crime. The risk was high according to the software. How the algorithms came to this conclusion is a secret of the company that developed it.
Compas was developed by the company Northpointe / equivant . The algorithms take into account a survey and information about the past behavior of the defendant. The company explains that the procedure is scientifically sound. It also says that men and women are judged differently, as are juveniles, but by what factors is a trade secret.
The algorithm has been in use for six years, but has not been evaluated or tested by independent reviewers.
In the meantime, many US states already use such algorithms. The use is justified by the fact that the states hope to keep people who are not a danger to the community out of jail.
Loomis fought against the decision, but to no avail. The judges said the software had provided valuable information, and the verdict would probably have been similar without the software. One would have needed only longer for the decision. Nevertheless, they were unsure because it had recently emerged that white people were often less rigorously evaluated by Compas.
In Pennsylvania, the state has developed its own AI and released the source code so that people can see the algorithms.