Algorithm using racist drug war data to determine Missourians’ freedom

By Filter Staff

An algorithm based on data from decades of drug war policing that disproportionately targets Black Missourians will soon, in part, determine whether or not a defendant is jailed before trial. The plan⁠—recently instituted by the Supreme Court of Missouri and will be effective in 2020⁠—is under scrutiny from researchers and activists for having racism,⁠ quite literally,⁠ programmed into it.

The state Supreme Court’s Rule 33.01 was published on June 30, after the Eastern District of Missouri court ruled to end money bail for indigent defendants earlier that month. It ordered other courts to consult “evidentiary-based risk assessment tool[s]” when deciding whether to “detain” or “release” defendants.

The risk assessment tools use a mathematical formula to estimate the probability that a defendant will be arrested again or miss their court appearance. A risk score is calculated, to be used by a judge when considering pretrial conditions. 

Related Content