Discrimination and racial disparities persist at every stage of the U.S. criminal justice system, from policing to trials to sentencing. The United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any of its peer countries, with 2.2 million people behind bars. The criminal justice system disproportionately harms communities of color: while they make up 30 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 60 percent of the incarcerated population. There has been some discussion of how “big data” can be used to remedy inequalities in the criminal justice system; civil rights advocates recognize potential benefits but remained fundamentally concerned that data-oriented approaches are being designed and applied in ways that also disproportionately harms those who are already marginalized by criminal justice processes.
This document is a workshop primer from Data & Civil Rights: Why “Big Data” is a Civil Rights Issue.