In the News

We’re happy to share two great articles from the past week that feature the work of the Lab.

The first, “The Justice Gap: America’s unfulfilled promise of ‘equal justice under law'” by Lincoln Caplan, is a longform piece in Harvard Magazine that puts the Lab’s studies of self-help materials in the context of the larger debate about how best to address the access to justice gap. It’s a great read if you’re interested in learning more about the history of legal aid and how the work of the Lab fits into that framework.

The second, “Unicorns: RCTs, the Social Sciences, and IRBs” by Tonya Ferraro, published in Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R)‘s blog, Ampersand, draws on Jim Greiner’s research on the history of RCTs in the legal profession. Ensuring that studies that involve human subjects, such as the studies run by the Lab, are ethical is an important part of the legal research process that both lawyers and review boards can be unfamiliar with because of the paucity of RCTs in law. The article describes how the IRB process can adapt to meet the needs of such studies.

For those of you who don’t engage in academic research, “IRB” is short for Institutional Review Board; institutions whose faculty and students engage in research establish their own committees, which ensure that any studies involving human subjects meet federal ethical standards. (If you’re unfamiliar with IRBs and how they operate, you can learn more here.)

See any great work about access to justice in the press? Share it with us on Twitter or Facebook.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Law, AI, and Justice

Yesterday, Research Director Chris Griffin spoke with three other Harvard scholars as part of a HUBweek 2017 panel sponsored by the Berkman Klein CenterProgramming the Future of AI: Ethics, Governance, and Justice. The four debated the promises and perils of using computer models and algorithms to guide legal decision-making. The Boston Globe‘s article about the event captures the core questions succinctly: “Should sophisticated computer models help judges predict which defendants are safe enough to release before trial? Or should judges rely on their own wisdom, discretion, and experience to make those decisions?”

Such questions are at the heart of the Lab’s work testing the Public Safety Assessment (“PSA”) in Dane County, Wisconsin (and potentially more sites). The PSA is an actuarial risk assessment that applies an algorithm to static criminal history factors and recommends whether and under what conditions someone should be released prior to disposition. While not an example of artificial intelligence–itself a topic for separate debate!–the PSA does raise similar questions regarding how algorithmic models should influence human decisions in law and whether or not those influences can yield more just outcomes. We hope our study will help provide some answers.

The sold-out event lasted about one hour; if you missed it live, you can catch the full conversation here!

A2J Lab featured in The Practice

The blog has been on a brief hiatus, but we’re back with some great news!

The Center on the Legal Profession (of which the Lab is proud to be a part) publishes The Practice, a bi-monthly magazine featuring topics of interest to practitioners. If you’re looking for an engaging read over the weekend, you should check out this month’s issue. That’s right—it’s a whole magazine full of stories about the Lab!

The content includes:

Note: The magazine is behind a paywall. If you register, you can read two articles for free. You can learn more about subscription options here.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Public Safety Assessment Featured on NPR’s Planet Money

Our first RCT studying the Public Safety Assessment (“PSA”), the pre-disposition release assessment tool developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, is well underway in Dane County, WI.

Madison is far from the only place the PSA currently is in use; this recent piece from the Planet Money podcast highlights the implementation of the PSA in New Jersey.

The PSA is up and running in New Jersey, as well as the entire State of Kentucky and scattered counties from Santa Cruz, CA to Volusia, FL. Although the PSA has been scientifically validated, only the results from our Dane County RCT—and, hopefully, upcoming trials in other locations—will give us a good sense of how well the PSA really works for a given jurisdiction.

If you have some time on your commute (or whenever you listen to the news), take a listen. It’s about twenty minutes long, and it will give you a great sense of what we’re studying in the PSA trials. Prefer to read the story? The full transcript is also available online.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.