The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice in touting a new system of “predictive analytics” that would steer at-risk juveniles to specific treatment programs designed to keep them from becoming adult criminals, reports the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. The state’s purchase of the $15,000 software package from IBM has alarmed some juvenile-justice experts, who fear the program could unfairly label individuals and target minorities. The announcement from IBM about the sale to Florida of its predictive analytics software touched off a flurry of criticism in the blogosphere .
“Classifying children this way is never a good thing,” said Carrie Lee of Barry University’s Juvenile Justice Center in Orlando. “Ultimately, the goal should be about helping these kids.” Mark Greenwald, chief of research and planning at the Department of Juvenile Justice, said all delinquent youths referred to the department are screened “to determine their risks and needs.” More than 138,000 juveniles were referred to the department in the year ending in June. “This software will give us a better idea of delinquency patterns, and in the long term, what programs would benefit certain youth,” Greenwald said. “It will help refine the decision-making process.” Gordon Bazemore, chairman of Florida Atlantic University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said the state’s plan “seems benign. But you’ve always got to be cautious. You don’t want to label someone for life.”