We’ve all heard of AI being the next big thing that will replace humans in many fields but for over 8 132 marijuana smokers who are going to get their convictions cleared by an algorithm created by Code for America, AI is actually a close pal.
Back in 2016, a law was passed legalizing the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in California. This opened the door for smokers with previous records to get cleared. This is where Code for America stepped in. They created Clear My Record, a program that analyzes conviction data to help officials determine which convictions should be dismissed or need re-sentencing.
Code for America have resolved thus far and they estimate that by the end of this year they may have assisted prosecutors in the US to void over 250 000 convictions.
This is the more positive aspect of having code work alongside human beings which is rarely talked about. Usually, the focus lies in the robot-induced apocalypse that will be caused by advances in AI whilst the positives are left out of focus. Having a conviction is life-threatening in that many normal jobs and posts one might have been considered for are actually out of your reach so having a software tool that can actually clear people is vital. San Francisco’s District Attorney acknowledged this much;
Often you cannot get housing (there are many landlords who will not rent to someone who has a criminal conviction especially a felony), there are a lot of employers who may not not hire you if you have a conviction, there are many types of educational loans that you may not qualify for, if you are a parent you may not be able to participate in some of the school activities for your children because you are a convicted individual, especially if you are convicted of a felony, and I could go on and on and on.
What we do when we convict someone is that we marginalize them greatly from participating in the rest of our society.
Code for America’s solution is also said to be much more effective than the existing solution. Using the algorithm, the convicted individual doesn’t need to do anything and Code for America’s process doesn’t require much from the district attorney’s office as well which is much quicker than the petition-based process that is in existence currently. This process is also expensive and time-consuming so the code is clearly better-placed to do the job in this instance.
For the mbanje smokers already undergoing the clearance, they’ll just have to wait for the few remaining court processes to end and then they are free to smoke their ganja with a clean conscience and no criminal record.
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