You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

White House launches a data initiative to reduce prison numbers

Engadget Engadget 5/07/2016 Devindra Hardawar
© Provided by Engadget

Just before the holiday weekend last week, the White House launched the Data-Driven Justice Initiative (DDJ), a new effort that will use wider data access to reduce prison populations. The US has been widely criticized for its tendency to over-incarcerate citizens -- it accounts for 25 percent of the world's prison numbers, even though it houses only 5 percent of the world's population. And all of that comes at a cost: 11 million people are processed through America's local jails every year, the White House says, costing around $22 billion. As part of the DDJ, 67 municipalities across the country are banding together to use data-powered strategies to keep low-level offenders out of jails, primarily by pushing them towards mental health and addiction help.

The White House is also calling on tech companies for help. Amazon's Web Services group (the cloud computing folks) will convene a consortium to bring together data scientists, researchers and other technologists to come up with solutions for DDJ cities and states. Participants currently include the likes of Palantir, which is widely known for its data analytics, Motorola and Code for America.

As part of the DDJ, communities will also equip their police and first responders with strategies to de-escalate crisis situations to push people towards social programs and services. They'll also use data to identify low-risk offenders in prison and figure out ways to get them released early. Similar strategies have been adopted by some US communities to resounding success, Wired reports. Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, for example, used data strategies to find low-risk offenders who could be released early. They were able to lower their prison population by 40 percent with jumps in reported crime.

The White House

More from Engadget

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon