A top Google executive has formed a non-profit organization to help prison officials understand which programs work and don’t work to curb recidivism.
“In the criminal justice system today–an incredibly large and important and impactful system–we have none of those same abilities. It’s millions of lives, billions of dollars, and we don’t have a good sense of what’s working or a good way to set goals and hit them,” said Clementine Jacoby, who left her job as product manager for Google in June to work on criminal justice reform.
Jacoby cofounded Recidiviz in order to use data analytics to solve problems in the criminal justice arena.
“At Google, we had experimentation frameworks to determine which versions of a change would have the greatest impact, and when we rolled out a change, we could predict what it should do and monitor if it actually hit that goal,” said Jacoby in the Fast Company story.
A Bureau of Justice Statistics report in 2019 revealed that America had 2.2 million people in either jail or prison at the end of 2017, the article stated.
This number has been in decline over the last decade, but America still has more people incarcerated than any other country in the world does.
Recidiviz is now working with five states. “The people who are actually running criminal justice systems are already motivated to decarcerate for a whole variety of reasons-either their system may be over-crowded and they don’t know exactly what the best strategies are to get a handle on that, or they’re getting legislative pressure and advocacy pressure to downsize.”
Some tech companies already work in this space, making money without reducing the prison population. That is why Recidiviz decided to go non-profit, Jacoby said.
Recidiviz is the only non-profit at the tech accelerator Y Combinator and has plans to expand to more states, sharing the technology.
“Everything that we build is open-source. And so part of the theory of change is, can we get this technology out there, so that domain experts in the space can use this infrastructure to support states in doing data-driven decision making?” noted Fast Company.
The Fast Company article said that the data analysis also looks at how specific populations are helped by each program, so that programs can be better tailored. Ultimately, Jacoby said she hopes that reduced incarceration rates will allow money saved to go to- ward successful rehabilitation programs instead.
“You can actually start to shift the system from punitive to rehabilitative,” Jacoby said.