US professor’s computer model may predict repeat offenders

9 Aug 2010

While the Steven Spielberg film ‘Minority Report’ painted a claustrophobic picture of a future where individuals known as ‘precogs’ had visions of crimes yet to be committed, computer modeling carried out by University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Berk is firmly rooted in science and aims to predict accurately if offenders are likely to repeat their crimes.

“This system can forecast which inmates will kill again. With the help of years of computer data, I can separate the really bad guys being released from the people who probably won’t re-offend,” Berk was quoted as saying on US website The Morning Call.

A professor of criminology and statistics, Berk’s data is already being used by probation departments in Philadelphia and Baltimore to help authorities not predict who will kill again but rather point to likely cases that need closer monitoring.

Berk is looking at introducing a pilot next year and having his data modelling system in full operation by 2011 in Pennsylvania state.

Speaking with The Morning Call Berk explains that data collected shows that around 1.7pc of paroled inmates go on to kill or be killed within two years of their release. The data set compiled by Berk and computer prediction system on the back of this should identify around 80pc of these inmates, he says.