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The Swiss criminal justice system employs an intransparent algorithm to assess its inmates


June 2018.

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In this research we could show that the Swiss criminal justice system uses a simple, but intransparent algorithm to categorize inmates into three risk classes: A, B and C. Especially C-class inmates have to undergo more profound screening and are under increased scrutiny, potentially impacting their right to parole. Our research showed that the algorithm, when applied in different cantons (= Swiss provinces), produced very different results: Sometimes, C-class inmates would be the majority, sometimes A-class, etc. The officials didn’t have an explanation for this and wanted to look into it

Also, while the algorithm had previously been publicly known, its weights and exact mechanism had been a black box. Under our journalistic pressure the responsible authority finally released the inner workings of the system for public scrutiny.

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