By Bernard E. Harcourt

From regimen safety exams at airports to using threat evaluate in sentencing, actuarial tools are getting used greater than ever to figure out whom cops objective and punish. And apart from racial profiling on our highways and streets, most folk want those equipment simply because they suspect they’re a less costly technique to struggle crime.In opposed to Prediction, Bernard E. Harcourt demanding situations this starting to be reliance on actuarial equipment. those prediction instruments, he demonstrates, may perhaps in truth bring up the general volume of crime in society, looking on the relative responsiveness of the profiled populations to heightened safeguard. they could additionally worsen the problems that minorities have already got acquiring paintings, schooling, and a greater caliber of life—thus perpetuating the development of legal habit. eventually, Harcourt exhibits how the perceived luck of actuarial equipment has began to distort our very perception of simply punishment and to vague trade visions of social order. in preference to the actuarial, he proposes as an alternative a flip to randomization in punishment and policing. The presumption, Harcourt concludes, may be opposed to prediction. (20060828)

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Additional info for Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age

Sample text

Actuarial methods in the criminal law 37 More importantly, I try to achieve my goal by deploying a transparent and loose consequentialist framework. I set out as explicitly as possible the consequences of believing any particular assumption and map out all the different interests and values that may be affected. So, for instance, I articulate how a ratchet might occur, along what lines it will tend to stigmatize, and what consequences it may have for those stigmatized. My goal is not to convince everyone that the costs associated with a particular ratchet necessarily outweigh the possible benefits, but to set up a framework that allows you, the reader, to weigh these costs and benefits according to your own judgment and assessment of social welfare, and according to the value that you place on any jurisprudential or moral principles.

In this sense, the use of actuarial methods in the criminal justice context can affect a person’s life-course in extremely detrimental ways. It can result in self-fulfilling effects on employment, education, and family. ” 66 The ratchet effect is a significant cost of actuarial justice. Punishment and Sentencing Matters The ratchet effect is most clearly evident in the context of racial profiling—or criminal profiling in law enforcement more generally. There, disparities between the offending population and the prison population have significant symbolic effects: the black face of the incarcerated inmate, the silk stocking of the tax evader, the blue collar of the drywall contractor, these are all powerful symbolic products of the ratchet effect.

What happens is that we begin to feel justified about punishing the members of the targeted group because they offend at higher rates. We begin to feel that they are legitimate targets of punishment not because of their offending activity, but because of the characteristic trait that we profile. Take, for example, the case of profiling the rich for IRS audits or minorities for drug searches. At some point, the lines begin to blur, and we begin to feel morally righteous about going after the rich for tax evasion or minorities for drug trafficking because we begin to associate the profiled trait with suspicion.

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