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It’s easy to forget just how much of the modern world is powered by software, from trains and planes to emails and file transfers. Corene Kendrick, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s National Prison Project, says that when software is “working behind the scenes, that kind of business operations stuff, you just assume normally it’s doing its job.”

In fact, you may only notice it when things have gone wrong. Sometimes, that means a late email, or a corrupted file in cloud storage. But other times, software errors can have a startling human cost.

A recent whistleblower report from KJZZ found that “hundreds” of Arizona prison inmates who may be qualified for early release are being held in custody because its custom software for managing inmates — built at a cost of $24 million — can’t interpret a new state sentencing law. According to the whistleblowers, the Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation & Reentry (ADCRR) has known about the issue since 2019.

“I can’t remember ever hearing of something just so systemic and profound affecting thousands of people with what we’re hearing here,” Kendrick told Insider.

This incident, and recent ones like it, are part of what experts call a troubling trend of poorly managed or designed tech within the criminal justice system and other public services, whether rooted in systematic bias like algorithmic risk assessments, or software that simply can’t interpret existing rules and laws.

The evidence suggests that when software is built for institutions like prisons or social services like welfare, the consequences of IT issues are devastating, with society’s most vulnerable often ending up bearing the cost. Experts say that oversight over government enterprise technology is long overdue — but at the same time, legislation must be handled with care for fear of exacerbating the issues.

“Those are all key elements here especially when we’re talking about people’s lives,” Forrester vice president Joseph Blankenship told Insider. “That’s what makes these stories so painful.” 

Arizona’s $24 million prison software has had other issues

The software in question, called Arizona Correctional Information System (ACIS), was created by ADCRR in partnership with IT company Business & Decision North America (BNDNA), and put into use in late 2019 after records show a contract for “development, implementation and maintenance services for Enterprise Services Platform” that began in 2013.

This most recent case isn’t the first time that ADCRR has found itself …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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An Arizona software issue reportedly kept inmates locked up when they should have been released, and it shows the real human cost of tech errors

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