More than 2 million people are imprisoned in the U.S., among them hundreds of thousands who experts say don’t pose a public-safety threat and could be released. One problem: the data that could trigger those releases get backlogged, because they’re often spread out among different departments. That’s why in 2019, Clementine Jacoby, a software engineer, launched Recidiviz, a nonprofit that has worked with more than 30 states to log into one system key data points—such as whether an incarcerated person has served most of their sentence or has shown progress by completing a treatment program, or more recently, how well equipped a correction facility is to handle a COVID-19 outbreak. It then uses an algorithm to recommend certain prisoners for release. “Our hope is that the people who are succeeding get off early,” Jacoby says, “and that frees up attention for officers to spend time with the people who actually need it.” Of course, no algorithm is perfect, and algorithms alone won’t solve the issues of the criminal-justice system. But so far, Recidiviz has seen early signs of success. To date, the nonprofit has helped identify as appropriate for release nearly 44,000 inmates in 34 states, including North Dakota, which last spring saw its prison population drop by 20%.
That is from the Time100 Next. The initial grant helped Clementine quit her job to do Recidivez full-time.