Justice by Algorithm: The Limits of AI in Criminal Sentencing

Criminal Justice Ethics 42 (3):193-213 (2023)
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Criminal justice systems have traditionally relied heavily on human decision-making, but new technologies are increasingly supplementing the human role in this sector. This paper considers what general limits need to be placed on the use of algorithms in sentencing decisions. It argues that, even once we can build algorithms that equal human decision-making capacities, strict constraints need to be placed on how they are designed and developed. The act of condemnation is a valuable element of criminal sentencing, and using algorithms in sentencing – even in an advisory role – threatens to undermine this value. The paper argues that a principle of “meaningful public control” should be met in all sentencing decisions if they are to retain their condemnatory status. This principle requires that agents who have standing to act on behalf of the wider political community retain moral responsibility for all sentencing decisions. While this principle does not rule out the use of algorithms, it does require limits on how they are constructed.

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Isaac Taylor
Stockholm University

Citations of this work

Collective Responsibility and Artificial Intelligence.Isaac Taylor - 2024 - Philosophy and Technology 37 (1):1-18.

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References found in this work

Force and freedom: Kant's legal and political philosophy.Arthur Ripstein - 2009 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform.Tommie Shelby - 2016 - Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
On statistical criteria of algorithmic fairness.Brian Hedden - 2021 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 49 (2):209-231.
Two Faces of Responsibility.Gary Watson - 1996 - Philosophical Topics 24 (2):227-248.

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