Technology and Mass Incarceration
History of Race and Mass Incarceration
In order to understand how technology interacts with mass incarceration, it is critical to understand the history of mass incarceration, and how it relates to the history of slavery and racism in this country. The following material touches on different aspects of this history:
- Recommended: 13th (movie available on NetflixNetflix and Youtube) (1:40:00)) Note: contains some graphic video footage of violence against Black people
- Alternate material:
- Ted Talk by Michelle Alexander (23:38)
- Equal Justice Initiative Youtube video on Slavery to Mass Incarceration (5:50)
- Business Insider article on Prison Industrial Complex (5-10 min read)
Include in your reflection a description of the connections between slavery, Jim Crow policies, and mass incarceration.
Please read the MIT tech review piece "Predictive policing algorithms are racist. They need to be dismantled."
Reflect on this article, especially in the context of the history of anti-Black racism in the US. Here are some questions we will be discussing in class, and that you can start to address in your reflection (write about what are interested in - you do not have to go in depth into all of them or any of the suggested prompts):
- Is machine bias better or worse than human bias in algorithms like risk assessment tools? Does it depend on the situation? Who should get to make that decision? Are there alternatives?
- Does your understanding of the history of Black incarceration in this country change how you think about these predictive policing tools? How do these tools fit or diverge from some of the historic themes of oppression of Black people in the US?
- Do companies have a valid argument in claiming that they can't reveal information about their algorithms to protect trade secrets? Should the law be changed so that race be explicitly taken into account in algorithms? Would this make them more fair or more just? Are those the same thing?
Further Optional Reading
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness by Michelle Alexander