Artificial intelligence has become an integral part of everything from medical diagnostics technology to systems that analyze electoral candidates and provide accurate information to voters.
However, there are still many AI skeptics, and especially those who question the role of AI in the justice system. Many legal leaders and institutions are curious about the efficiency benefits AI brings to the field. But the big question is: can AI help make the judicial system fairer?
The current landscape.
Many claim that the United States’ judicial system is one of the most robust in the world. It has a Judicial Commission responsible for dictating policies to other federal courts.
The Judicial body is made up of the president of the Supreme Court and 26 judges who represent the authority figures in courts, corresponding to courts of the first instance and the federal courts of appeal.
The U.S also has a state judicial system so that each state can focus on its own cases based on state law.
Each of these structures has a role in the United States judicial system, and each player knows what he or she has to do within it. However, due to the vastness of these systems, information management is cumbersome, especially when judges must decide which cases to attend and which aspects of the law they must take into account.
The American justice system is not without flaws, and a number of cases have exposed them. Judges have condemned innocent people because the information used to convict them was imprecise and poorly analyzed.
One such case concerns a man named Richard Anthony Jones, who spent almost two decades in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. His crime: having facial features similar to those of a criminal. Despite finding no evidence or DNA matches that conclusively identified Jones as the robber, several witnesses identified him after police showed them a series of photographs.
The failure of the judicial system.
Seventeen years later, the justice system managed to identify Anthony’s “double,” a man who actually committed the robbery that Jones served time for. The “other” man, nicknamed “Ricky,” fled, but witnesses identified Jones — who bore an incredible resemblance to Ricky — as the guilty party.
Once it was proven that the wrong man had been imprisoned, the judge confirmed that the procedures used in the original trial had not been the best. Jones was released, and as a “refund of his freedom,” he was offered a million dollars.
Will that money pay for 17 years of life in prison?
Craig Coley, 71, of Simi Valley, California, was also a victim of judicial inaccuracy and remained in jail for 38 years after he was mistakenly accused of the murder of his former partner and son in 1978.
Coley was released in November 2017 after DNA tests showed that he was not linked to the case. He received $21 million in compensation.
What can AI do for the judicial system?
As we can see, weaknesses in both human memory and the judicial system can lead to a person being wrongly imprisoned for decades on the basis of flimsy evidence.
These obvious weaknesses are where AI comes in. Algorithms and machine learning-based tools can collect any volume of information, analyze evidence, and help identify people. Thanks to AI technology, patterns, and anomalies — such as the inconsistencies in the DNA of Jones and Coleigh – might have been quickly and accurately identified. The cases could have been classified and written sooner.
Likewise, big data can also help analyze crimes, since data can come not only from private sources such as the police but also from public sources on the web. Algorithms can detect various correlations and patterns, and meticulously analyze extensive data sets.
Big data can be a great help in court trials all over the country in real-time and help assess the individual performance of judges.
But not everything about AI is rosy.
AI error biases.
AI-based facial recognition systems can monitor and recognize defendants. AI can support sentencing and bail decisions, and train neural networks to help better assess the evidence.
However, AI technology is constantly evolving, and some judicial entities have applied facial recognition systems that proved to be less-than-precise identity verification tools.
Details such as skin color, facial features can wrongly identify an innocent person as guilty. This has happened in recent tests of Rekognition, Amazon’s facial recognition technology, which is being used by official entities in the United States.
The future of AI in the judicial system.
Although there is still a long way to go before the U.S. has a model judicial system that incorporates artificial intelligence, some observers believe that goal is getting closer.
In Australia, a team of artificial intelligence experts and lawyers has begun to develop the Split-Up system, which uses use rule-based reasoning and neural networks to predict the results of property disputes in divorces and other family law cases.
The United Kingdom is implementing a “Predictive Crime Map,” which uses Big Data to pinpoint areas that are most prone to crime.
The United States has also applied the power of Big Data in several cities. In Los Angeles, it helped reduce robberies and violent crimes by 10% to 30%.
In Estonia, the future is already here.
Estonia is one of the most innovative countries in the field of AI. There, artificial intelligence is much more than a tool that will help optimize and improve the judicial system. The country is betting on making AI the judge, and not just the tool.
The Estonian case raises and develops the idea that robots can act as virtual judges.
It should be noted that this AI program raises robot judges who can make decisions in minor cases. A robot judge for small cases would undoubtedly help manage paperwork, decision-making and make judicial services much more efficient.
Ott Velsberg, the Estonian government’s Chief Data Officer, was tasked with designing an AI tool to deal with backlogged court cases. The tool he came up with analyses the documentation presented by the parties and issues a judgment.
In this way, Estonia seeks to deal with dozens of cases that judges and court clerks cannot currently deal with.
Despite being a country of 1.3 million people, Estonia has made great advances in AI that are helping to automate government functions. Maybe other countries will follow suit if Estonia has success in this area.
As expected, advances in AI have reduced the number of government jobs. However, Estonia has also developed an application that feeds the CVs of laid-off workers into a machine learning system that matches their skills with employers’ needs.
Using AI and Machine Learning together is a great tool to help workers to land new jobs that align with their skill set.