Cop Out: Automation in the Criminal Legal System

Police, judges, prosecutors, and other legal authorities are increasingly using technologies like predictive policing, face recognition, and risk assessments to inform or make critical decisions about policing and punishment, which has profound consequences for peoples’ rights and liberties.

In a new interactive digital narrative, Cop Out: Automation in the Criminal Legal System, we explore these algorithmic technologies fueling the increasing automation of the criminal legal system. An accompanying essay considers the real-life, on-the-ground impacts of this change, and how algorithmic technologies can stymie attempts to reconsider how the criminal legal system operates by reinforcing historical and contemporary inequities. It argues that the more automation introduced into systems of policing and punishment, the more reduced the opportunity to recognize and reconsider the assumptions that constitute criminal legal institutions.