Holder: Big data is leading to ‘fundamental unfairness’ in drug sentencing

BY Joshua Barajas  July 31, 2014 at 6:29 PM EST

Attorney General Eric Holder told PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill on Thursday that he’s worried about the criminal justice system relying on so-called big data, in some states, for its drug sentencing. States should, the attorney general said, base a sentence on a person’s conduct and not on factors such as education level, neighborhood background, among others as a predictor to determine a person’s likelihood to repeat a crime.

“Using group data to make an individualized determination, I think, can result in fundamental unfairness,” Holder said.

In January, the attorney general proposed a plan that would reduce drug sentences for those involved with minor drug crimes and remove mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, a change that would help alleviate overflowing U.S. federal prisons.