Decriminalize Illegal Immigration

California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra joined Democratic presidential candidates Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke in asking for the decriminalization of illegal immigration. Beccera says that civil penalties are enough that criminal charges demonize people whose only crime is seeking a better life. Castro had earlier made a policy proposal to eliminate the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 1325 which makes unauthorized entry into the country a federal misdemeanor. Section 1326 asks for further penalties for subsequent reentries. Those are the statutes used by the Trump administration to separate families and prosecute migrants. Becerra, Castro, O’Rourke and others who may subscribe to the idea know that it is not likely to succeed with this administration, that at best it is a good campaign slogan. And it does look like it is emerging as a Democratic Party talking point.

It’s an important idea, and although it is unlikely to bring relief to those now at the border, it nevertheless needs to be remembered and talked about so that its future as a reality can be that much sooner.

Education And Recidivism

A Rand 2018 study found that inmates in correctional facilities who participated in educational programs were 28% less likely to recidivate. In addition the United States Sentencing Commission found that inmates with less than a high school diploma were 60% more likely to be subject to recidivism  and those with a college degree had  only a 19% chance to relapse into criminal behavior. Several recent studies have pointed out the importance of education for inmates and the Rand analysis states “Every dollar invested in correctional education saves nearly five in re incarceration costs over three years.”  As a result of such studies a bipartisan bill is being proposed in Congress. It would reinstate Pell Grants for inmates and thus acquires added importance. The Vera Institute of Justice and the Georgetown Center for Poverty and inequality showed that restoring Pell Grants for inmates would not only increase their employment, in this case by 10%, but increase their collective earning in the first year by $45 million. Obviously if it passes, the bill which would affect 463,000 prisoners, would improve their lives after incarceration, and therefore benefit all of us.  It is equally worth noting that not only is this bill a bipartisan effort in super partisan times, it also recognizes the importance of education in correctional facilities—something that’s been forgotten!

Self-Driving Cars And Racist Technology

Like many I’m waiting for self-driving cars, but I’m also increasingly concerned about how safe they will be. Now there’s another issue. The technology working on those safety issues looks to be programmed to be racist. It identifies white faces but the darker someone is the harder it is for the machine to identify it as a person, in the case of self-driving cars, pedestrians. Researchers from Georgia Tech found that machines consistently failed at recognizing darker skin tones. It’s actually not only self-driving cars, AI in Google image recognition system couldn’t recognize black people, and couldn’t tell the difference between them and an a dark ape. The researchers called such finding alarming, as I hope you will too. There are apparently radars which can better differentiate skin tones, but these are very expensive and to include them in cars would make them very expensive.

It seems to me that since the machines were once programmed by humans and that since the algorithm they function on were devised by humans that the time has come to change the algorithm. That should be the responsibility of the researchers who erred in the first place by revealing their own view of race. So my message to the companies developing AI for self-driving cars is, correct the AI race biases the original engineers programmed in before you even think of cost.

Women In The World

It’s not enough to have International Women’s Day, it’s necessary to remember why it’s needed, and do so sufficiently frequently so that it might allow us to make a difference. Here are a few statistics that may direct our attention and efforts:

  • At minimum 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation
  • More than 130 million women and girls did not attend school in 2016
  • 750 million women and girls alive today were married before the age of 18
  • 5000 women and girls globally were murdered for having “dishonored” their families
  • 50% of people with HIV today are women
  • 23.7%  is the portion of women representatives in national parliaments worldwide
  • 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same jobs as men
  • Women have never been Secretary General of the UN, Archbishop of Canterbury, Catholic priests, Prime Minister of Belgium, the Netherlands or Spain, governor of the Bank of England and of course President of the United States