In Jesper Ryberg & Julian V. Roberts (eds.), Sentencing and Artificial Intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)

Ben Davies
Oxford University
Thomas Douglas
Oxford University
It is often thought that traditional recidivism prediction tools used in criminal sentencing, though biased in many ways, can straightforwardly avoid one particularly pernicious type of bias: direct racial discrimination. They can avoid this by excluding race from the list of variables employed to predict recidivism. A similar approach could be taken to the design of newer, machine learning-based (ML) tools for predicting recidivism: information about race could be withheld from the ML tool during its training phase, ensuring that the resulting predictive model does not use race as an explicit predictor. However, if race is correlated with measured recidivism in the training data, the ML tool may ‘learn’ a perfect proxy for race. If such a proxy is found, the exclusion of race would do nothing to weaken the correlation between risk (mis)classifications and race. Is this a problem? We argue that, on some explanations of the wrongness of discrimination, it is. On these explanations, the use of an ML tool that perfectly proxies race would (likely) be more wrong than the use of a traditional tool that imperfectly proxies race. Indeed, on some views, use of a perfect proxy for race is plausibly as wrong as explicit racial profiling. We end by drawing out four implications of our arguments.
Keywords artificial intelligence  AI ethics  criminal justice ethics  discrimination  profiling  machine learning
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Principles of Social Justice.David Miller - 2002 - Political Theory 30 (5):754-759.

View all 23 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Race, Criminal Law and Ethical Life.Ekow N. Yankah - 2019 - In Larry Alexander & Kimberly Kessler Ferzan (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Applied Ethics and the Criminal Law. Springer Verlag. pp. 625-648.
Racial Profiling and Criminal Justice.Jesper Ryberg - 2011 - The Journal of Ethics 15 (1-2):79 - 88.
Racial Injustice, Racial Discrimination, and Racism.D. C. Matthew - forthcoming - Social Theory and Practice.
Racial Profiling and Jury Trials.Annabelle Lever - 2009 - The Jury Expert 21 (1):20-35.
Ethical Profiling.Michael Boylan - 2011 - The Journal of Ethics 15 (1-2):131 - 145.


Added to PP index

Total views
295 ( #36,746 of 2,519,861 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
72 ( #10,638 of 2,519,861 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes