More and more applications Artificial intelligence is popping up almost everywhere these days, from surfing the Internet to smart homes to self-driving cars.
Today a group of researchers is launching a new study driven by artificial intelligence that will collect data from newly released inmates. The ultimate goal of the project is to identify (and hopefully one day eliminate) the psychological and physiological triggers that cause the "relapse" that brings prisoners back to prison.
An AI to reduce relapses
The researchers of Purdue University Polytechnic Institute plan to track volunteers' probation cases using a range of AI-based tools and methods, including smartphones and wearable biometric bracelets. These gadgets will record and analyze a variety of data, such as biological information of ex-inmates (heart rate), photos and location metadata.
According to the project managers Marcus Rogers e Umit Karabiyik, the resulting data will be very useful for conducting a serious forensic psychological analysis.
Although the monitoring will be measured at intervals (and not in real time for ethical reasons), researchers believe it will help build a profile of risky behaviors and triggers and stressors. In other words, the factors that newly released inmates face when returning to the outside world.
Citing a Justice Department study, researchers say more than 80 percent of prisoners released from prisons are re-arrested within 9 years. A good part of these, in turn, are arrested in less than a year.
Karabiyik observes: “The main reason repeat offenders are so high is that people on probation don't feel like they belong in the community. They struggle and quickly return to their old criminal habits. Their old criminal communities are considered much more welcoming ”.
The study will enroll 250 volunteers on probation (after obtaining the consent of their families) after their release. Half of them will receive biometric tracking devices, which will monitor them for 4 years. The other half will serve as the control group.
The goal of the study is to identify opportunities for early intervention to better help individuals integrate successfully into general societyMarcus Rogers, co-author of the study
A Big Brother jailer?
The team believes the technology can be used to inculcate coping mechanisms and social skills for released prisoners, reducing the number of relapses and preventing the attitudes that can lead to relapses.
This isn't the first time that an academic team has used electronic surveillance to monitor inmates. In 2017, criminology researchers used smartphones to track down released prisoners. Particularly those who were struggling with substance abuse or mental health problems. They used algorithms to study everything from probation movements to sleep patterns, hoping that one day such technology might allow social workers to intervene.
Are new surveillance and artificial intelligence research projects a useful scientific data collection? Could they ultimately help probation inmates?
Or are they a panopticon-like surveillance application that could end up exclusively in the hands of law enforcement?
The path is delicate. While the project has a certain altruistic resonance, such applications could end up being abused.