What Algorithmic Injustice Looks Like in Real Life

Courtrooms across the nation are using computer programs to predict who will be a future criminal. The programs help inform decisions on everything from bail to sentencing. They are meant to make the criminal justice system fairer 2014 and to weed out human biases.


ProPublica tested one such program and found that it's often wrong 2014 and biased against blacks. (Read our story.)


There's software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it's biased against blacks. Read the story.


We looked at the risk scores the program spit out for more than 7,000 people arrested in Broward County, Florida in 2013 and 2014. We checked to see how many defendants were charged with new crimes over the next two years 2014 the same benchmark used by the creators of the algorithm. Our analysis showed:

  •  The formula was particularly likely to falsely flag black defendants as future criminals, wrongly labeling them this way at almost twice the rate as white defendants.
  • White defendants were mislabeled as low risk more often than black defendants.

What does that look like in real life? Here are five comparisons of defendants 2014 one black and one white 2014 who were charged with similar offenses but got very different scores.


Two Shoplifting Arrests

James Rivelli, 53.

In August 2014, Rivelli allegedly shoplifted seven boxes of Crest Whitestrips from a CVS. An employee called the police. When the cops found Rivelli and pulled him over, they found the Whitestrips as well as heroin and drug paraphernalia in his car. He was charged with two felony counts and four misdemeanors for grand theft, drug possession, and driving with a suspended license and expired tags.


Past offenses: He had been charged with felony aggravated assault for domestic violence in 1996, felony grand theft also in 1996, and a misdemeanor theft in 1998. He also says that he was incarcerated in Massachusetts for felony drug trafficking.


COMPAS score: 3 2014 low


Subsequent offense: In April 2015, he was charged with two felony counts of grand theft in the 3rd degree for shoplifting about $1,000 worth of tools from a Home Depot.


He says: Rivelli says his crimes were fueled by drug use and he is now sober. "I'm surprised [my risk score] is so low," Rivelli said in an interview in his mother's apartment in April. "I spent five years in state prison in Massachusetts."


Robert Cannon, 18.

In December 2013, Cannon was caught shoplifting a cell phone and two pairs of headphones from a Wal-Mart (together valued at $171.52), and was charged with misdemeanor petty theft.


Past offense: One earlier misdemeanor petty theft in Miami in 2012.


COMPAS score: 6 2014 medium


Subsequent offenses: None.


He says: We were unable to contact Cannon. We visited his last known address and was told by the residents that they did not know him and that they could not pass on a message to him.


Two Drug Possession Arrests

Dylan Fugett, 20.


In February 2013, Fugett was charged with a felony for cocaine possession, and two misdemeanors for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.


Past offense: In 2010, he was charged with a felony for an attempted burglary.


COMPAS score: 3 2014 low


Subsequent offenses: Fugett was caught with marijuana and drug paraphernalia twice more in 2013. Then, during a traffic stop in 2015, when he was arrested on a bench warrant, he admitted that he was hiding eight baggies of marijuana in his boxers. He was charged with marijuana possession with intent to sell.


He says: Fugett says his low risk score seems like an accurate assessment. "Everybody sees me as a thug because I used to have earrings and tattoos," Fugett said in an interview at his mother's house in April. "But I really am just a big old teddy bear."


Bernard Parker, 21.

During a January 2013 traffic stop for expired registration tags, cops found an ounce of marijuana in Parker's car. He was charged with felony drug possession with intent to sell.


Past offense: In 2011, he was arrested for running from the cops and tossing away a baggie that was suspected to contain cocaine.


COMPAS score: 10 2014 high


Subsequent offenses: None.


He says: "I haven't been in trouble with the law," Parker said when interviewed at his grandmother's house in April. "I try to stay out of their way."


Two Burglary Arrests

Anthony Vitiello, 30.


In April 2014, a cop spotted Vitiello breaking open an air conditioner unit behind someone's house to steal copper tubing out of it. When confronted, he admitted he had stolen parts from the same unit before and was coming back for more. He was charged with felony possession of burglary tools and misdemeanor prowling/loitering.


Past offenses: A felony charge for check-forgery and a juvenile misdemeanor.


COMPAS score: 2 2014 low


Subsequent offenses: Three subsequent felony burglaries, all within the next year. In one burglary, he threw a brick through a person's kitchen window and climbed in, but the person came home while he was there, and he ran away. He then broke into another person's house, where he was finally caught. In another burglary, he broke into someone's house and stole jewelry, a camcorder, three Kindles, a camera, and car keys. Most recently, he broke someone's bedroom window, climbed in and stole $500 in cash.


He says: We were unable to make contact with Vitiello. We visited his last known address and left letters for him there but did not get any response.


Hassheim White, 18.

In January 2014, a cop stopped White and a friend on the street. White was carrying a pair of car-stereo speakers, some flashlights, a tire gauge, and some coins. He confessed that he and his friend had stolen them from cars they had broken into. White was charged with two felony counts of burglary, misdemeanor petty theft and misdemeanor prowling/loitering.


Past offenses: Two juvenile felonies.


COMPAS score: 8 2014 high


Subsequent offenses: None.


He says: "I'm done with that lifestyle," White said in an interview at his home in April. "It used to be home to home, couch to couch, theft to theft. Now it's shift to shift, paycheck to paycheck. I've got a child on the way."


Two DUI Arrests

Gregory Lugo, 36.


In October 2014, Lugo crashed his Lincoln Navigator into a Toyota Camry. When a police officer arrived at the scene of the accident, Lugo fell over several times and an almost-empty bottle of gin was found in his car. He was charged with DUI and with driving with a suspended license.


Past offenses: Three previous DUIs (in 1998, 2007, and 2012), and a misdemeanor battery in 2008.


COMPAS score: 1 2014 low


Subsequent offense: Two days later, Lugo was charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery for domestic violence.


He says: Lugo says he is now sober and a low risk. "You take the alcohol away, and I am not a violent person," Lugo said in an interview at his home in April.


Mallory Williams, 29.

In October 2013, Williams hit a parked car in a parking lot. She was charged with six misdemeanor counts of DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, and resisting arrest without force.


Past offenses: Two misdemeanors in Virginia in 2006 and 2012.


COMPAS score: 6 2014 medium


Subsequent offenses: None.


She says: We were unable to make contact with Williams. She did not respond to attempts to reach her through her last known phone numbers and email addresses.


Two Petty Theft Arrests

Vernon Prater, 41.

In the summer of 2013, he shoplifted $86.35 worth of tools from a Home Depot in North Lauderdale, and was charged with felony petty theft.


Past offenses: Prater served a five-year prison sentence in Florida for an armed robbery and another attempted robbery in 1998. He was also arrested for another armed robbery in South Carolina in 2006.


COMPAS score: 3 2014 low


Subsequent offenses: Prater went on to break into a warehouse and steal $7,700 worth of electronics, tools and appliances. He was charged with 30 felony counts, including burglary, grand theft in the third degree, and dealing in stolen property when he pawned the stolen goods. He confessed to the owner of the warehouse that he had taken the items because he had a drug problem and promised to pay him back later. Prater received an eight-year sentence for the thefts and is now in Florida state prison.


He says: We were unable to make contact with Prater through his court-appointed attorneys.


Brisha Borden, 18.

In 2014, Borden and a friend picked up a blue Huffy bicycle and a Razor scooter that were sitting unlocked outside an apartment building, and started to ride them down the street. When the owner saw them and confronted them, Borden and her friend dropped the bike and scooter and ran away. A neighbor called the cops, and the two girls were charged with misdemeanor petty theft and burglary.


Past offense: Four juvenile misdemeanors.


COMPAS score: 8 2014 high


Subsequent offenses: None


She says: Borden did not respond to requests for an interview through friends, relatives, and letters left in person at her last known address.


Correction, May 26, 2016: This post incorrectly stated one of the dates of misdemeanor charges filed against Mallory Williams. The correct dates are 2006 and 2012.


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Nifty, Sensex to move sideways – Tuesday closing report
We had mentioned in Monday’s closing report that Nifty, Sensex might pause for breath. The major indices of the Indian stock markets were range-bound on Tuesday and closed with small losses over Monday’s close. The trends of the major indices, in the course of Tuesday’s trading, are given in the table below:
Profit booking, coupled with caution ahead of release of key macro-economic data, depressed the Indian equity markets on Tuesday. Consequently, the key indices provisionally closed the day's trade flat -- marginally in the red. Selling pressure was witnessed in healthcare, IT (information technology) and capital goods stocks. The BSE market breadth was skewed in favour of the bears - with 1,564 declines and 1,001 advances. The key indices on Monday had closed at their highest levels since October 2015. Initially on Tuesday, the key indices opened on a higher note, in-sync with their Asian peers. The equity markets soon ceded their initial gains on the back of profit booking after five consecutive sessions of rise.
Major macro-economic data like the fourth quarter GDP (gross domestic product), fiscal deficit and eight core industries (ECI) are expected to be released later on Tuesday. These key data points can give further cues towards a rate decision by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its monetary policy meet scheduled on June 7.
Terming the banks non-performing assets (NPAs), or bad loans, issue a serious concern to the economy, Union Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha has said the government was working to sort it out and reduce NPAs. "For this, the government has brought the Bankruptcy Bill and given more freedom and transparency to the banking sector," the minister told ETV News Network. "Most of the banks incurred heavy NPAs between 2008 and 2012, during the UPA government. The present government decided to make it public, so that people should know what is the present situation," he said. Sinha said his government is serious about taking action against wilful defaulters. The Bank Nifty gained 0.57% in Tuesday’s trading to close at 17,620.90.
International cigarette companies including ITC and Godfrey Phillips have implemented the rule requiring 85% pictorial warning, they said on Tuesday. According to the companies, the decision was taken following the Supreme Court ruling making the new rule mandatory, even if the case was transferred back to Karnataka High Court. "It is a welcome change to see old packets with 40% warnings on one side of the pack giving way to new packs with larger warnings... There was criticism against the industry that the companies had flooded the market with old stocks in the absence of any clear guideline from the government on the date by which these should be exhausted," said a statement from the companies. "We have implemented the 85% pictorial warnings and now they can be seen on the new packets in the market," a company spokesman told IANS. ITC shares closed at Rs351.60, down 1.40% on the BSE. Godfrey Phillips India closed at Rs892.50, down 0.46% on the BSE.
The Krishi Kalyan Cess of 0.5% on services imposed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley comes into force from Wednesday through which the government proposes to collect Rs5,000 crore during the remaining 10 months of the current fiscal. The government policies are aimed at improving the rural sector and manufacturers of consumer goods, fertilisers and farm equipment are likely to benefit in the stock market from the improved rural purchasing power. This is however, likely to occur only after the monsoon.
On a consolidated basis, the Sun Pharmaceuticals group has posted a net profit of Rs4,715.91 crore for the year ended March 31, 2016 against Rs4,539.38 crore for the year ended March 31, 2015. The group's total income stood at Rs28,728.95 crore for the year ended March 31, 2016 against Rs27,842.84 crore for the year ended March 31, 2015. According to a company statement, the board of directors of Sun Pharmaceuticals has decided to meet on June 23 to evaluate a proposal for buy-back of equity shares. Sun Pharma shares closed at Rs762.70, down 6.13% on the BSE.
State-run generator NTPC on Monday posted a 7.73% drop in its standalone net profit for the fourth quarter ended March at Rs2,716.41 crore owing to low demand from state distribution companies (discoms). NTPC had posted a net profit of Rs2,944.03 crore in the corresponding quarter of last year, the company said in a stock exchange filing. "The standalone net profit saw a dip this quarter due to lower demand from discoms," a senior company official told reporters. Many discoms' purchasing capacities are under stress from huge accumulated debts. Thus affected, the company's standalone net sales of electricity fell to Rs17,990 crore during the quarter in question, as against sales of Rs19,229.94 crore in the same period year ago. Total standalone income in the fourth quarter fell to Rs18,560.70 crore, from Rs19,879.38 crore in the same quarter of 2014-15. The company supplied 57.95 billion units of electricity during the period as compared to 57.38 billion units in the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal. For the full fiscal 2015-26, the company reported a standalone net profit of Rs10,242.91 crore as compared to Rs10,290.86 crore in 2014-15. NTPC shares closed at Rs143.25, up 0.10% on the BSE.
The top gainers and top losers of the major indices are given in the table below:
The closing values of the major Asian indices are given in the table below:


Maharashtra government policy: Rob captive power plants to pay SMEs and win kudos
That is the mantra of the Maharashtra government. Several small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the state are in dire straits and closing their units due to unaffordable electricity tariffs of about Rs7 to Rs10 per unit. However, the government does not want such units to be closed due to high power tariffs. So, how can it reduce their power tariff? By subsidising the SMEs. But it does not have the money to pay such subsidies. So, it is about to increase cess on all captive power plants, say informed sources. 
Says an industrialist privy to this: "They (govt) want the power tariff for SMEs to be fixed at around Rs5.50 by providing a subsidy of Rs2 per unit. The total subsidy amount comes to about Rs1,100 crore. The government does not have this money. So they (govt) want to increase cess on captive power plants to Rs1.50 from 30 paise at present. This will help them garner around Rs950 crore. Rest they will manage from other sources and give subsidy of Rs1,100 crore to SMEs for electricity." 
This atrocious move comes at a time when the demand from industry bodies is for providing incentives to captive power plants and for the removal of the cess altogether. Instead of imposing the cess on the generation of captive power, the government should focus on reducing transmission and distribution (T&D) losses that are hampering power sector, the industry bodies had said.
Subdued economic activity has led to lower power demand from industrial consumers, which has led the state electricity boards (SEBs) to shed load to the residential and agricultural consumers. However, this has not brought down the tariffs because a large part of the input costs is fixed in nature. Besides, there is enormous padding and corruption involved in capital costs of power plants, which has kept power tariffs really high. Costs of fuel like coal too are not going down. 
The power sector in India has always been a highly-regulated sector. While the state-run units are run in an operationally inefficient manner, all kinds of dubious entities in the private sector have been allowed to start power projects. This has created a huge mess of high cost plants, unfinished projects and large bad debts for banks – eventually keeping tariff high and demand low. The state-run generator NTPC on Monday posted a 7.73% drop in its standalone net profit for the fourth quarter ended March at Rs2,716.41 crore owing to low demand from state distribution companies (discoms). NTPC had posted a net profit of Rs2,944.03 crore in the corresponding quarter of last year, the company said in a stock exchange filing. "The standalone net profit saw a dip this quarter due to lower demand from discoms," a senior company official told reporters. Many discoms' power purchase abilities are under stress from huge accumulated debts. In this scenario, the Maharashtra government is making things even messier by Robbing Peter to Pay Paul strategy.



suneel kumar gupta

1 year ago

I fully agree with the fact maximum efficiency improvement is needed in distribution. Power theft is majorly done by political parties who steal power in all their rallies. I ve often seen them picking power directly frm poles. But will bell the cat. Then state govt. buys power, sells cash & doesn't pay power companies. Things will not change just by fire fighting.

Ganesh Iyer

1 year ago

In Maharashtra at several inner villages there is open power tapping and misuse. Even in cities like mumbai big corporates were caught tampering electricity meters. Whilst electricity theft is a clear No Bail case of registering offence there is no vigilance oversuch thefts. With political connections no action is also initiated. It is ttherefore best to improve electricity in mahatashtra the power sector should be handed over to another state to manage independently and judiciously and make people pay for what they use, make electricity economical, give 365-24x7 electricity supply if not possible then send officials to gujarat to learn some examples. Even Navi Mumbai is electricity deficit huge developments but no power. Make vigilance register power thefts be it road side romeo festivals or political shows theft is theft.

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