The people and the algorithm behind Spokane County’s efforts to reform the pretrial criminal justice system
Spokane County is combating jail overcrowding with a statistical-risk assessment tool that factors in several variables about people accused of crimes, including age, criminal history, housing situation, and substance abuse issues.
The tool, known as SAFER, or “Spokane Assessment for Evaluation of Risk,” was developed by Washington State University criminal justice and criminology professor Zachary Hamilton specifically for Spokane’s population using data from about 14,000 criminal cases.
The SAFER tool has been “validated to predict equally for all races,” Hamilton says. It’ll take a year’s worth of data to determine whether he needs to make any tweaks in that regard.
“To a certain extent, risk assessment tools help diminish racial and ethnic bias by removing the human bias inherent in prosecution or judicial discretion,” he says. “There’s inherent racial bias within all measures of the criminal justice system, and risk assessment tools can only be as good as the data that’s provided.”
The rate of reported violent and property crimes in Clark County, Wash., decreased slightly from 2015 to 2016, differing from a slight increase in violent crime nationwide, according to new data from the FBI.
Clayton Mosher, a professor in Washington State University Vancouver’s sociology department who focuses on criminology, said the seeming increase in violent crime nationwide is somewhat misleading.
“It’s certainly true in places like Chicago and Detroit, and a couple other places, you’re seeing significant increases in violent crime,” he said. “It’s certainly not a national phenomenon.”
However, violent crime nationwide remains well below rates from the 1980s and early 1990s.
Violent crime in 2016 was 18 percent lower than it was in 2007, and the murder rate is down 6 percent from 2007, according to the Associated Press.
Clark County’s violent crime rate for 2016 is actually about 2 percent higher than in 2006, but the rate of reports per 100,000 people has generally been between 200 and 250, with an overall trend downward.
Ten students in the College of Arts & Sciences are among 27 WSU undergraduates at Pullman and Vancouver to receive two types of awards from the Office of Undergraduate Research, part of WSU Undergraduate Education.
Students in anthropology, biological sciences, chemistry, environmental studies, and history received Carson and Auvil awards. They will work with faculty mentors throughout the 2017-18 academic year on research, scholarly, and creative projects that advance or create new knowledge in their specific fields.
“Awards are typically $1,000 and help to ease financial stress, so students can focus more on their research,” said Shelley Pressley, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.
“We are fortunate to have generous alumni and friends whose gifts make these awards possible. Supporting undergraduates in their research also adds immeasurably to their educational experience at our top research university,” she said.
Awardees will present their research results at the seventh annual Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) on April 2, 2018.
The Washington State University Writing Program, directed by Victor Villanueva, Regents professor of English, has been ranked among the top 19 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in its annual “Best Colleges” issue released on Sept. 12.
This ranking includes national, regional and liberal arts colleges and universities. The WSU Writing Program is the only university in the Pacific Northwest, and one of just three in the west, along with Stanford and the University of California-Davis, to earn this recognition.
“It is quite an honor to be recognized once more on this level,” Villanueva said. “We work hard to have a positive impact on students and their academic programs, and this annual ranking validates that we are known for great results.”
He’s used art and technology to make the Tri-Cities a cleaner and more beautiful place. He’s worked to highlight and elevate women artists in the region.
He’s the catalyst behind a local art collaborative that’s published a magazine and tackled fake news through a social media campaign, among other projects and pursuits. He’s mentored students. Challenged them. Inspired them. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Peter Christenson, assistant professor of fine arts at Washington State University Tri-Cities, recently won the Governor’s Arts & Heritage Young Arts Leader award from the Washington State Arts Commission.