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HRDAG Retreat 2015

I look at the beach and then at the table surrounded by nerds, deep in thought and conversation about Dirichlet priors, matching algorithms, and armed conflicts. This peculiar (in the best way) environment catalyzes a moment of reflection: how did I get here? Four years ago, as a second-year statistics PhD student, I watched "Guatemala: The Secret Files" on PBS Frontline World. I listened to stories of family members who disappeared without answers or justice. Then the story shifted to the work being done by archivists and data experts at Guatemala's Historic Archive of the National Police. The scientists' pursuit of the truth energized me. I ...

How We Choose Projects

For more than 20 years, HRDAG has been carving out a niche in the international human rights movement. We know what we’re good at and what we’re not qualified to do. We know what quantitative questions we think are important for the community, and we know what we like to do. These preferences guide us as we consider whether to take on a project. We’re scientists, so our priorities will come as no surprise. We like to stick to science (not ideology), avoid advocacy, answer quantifiable questions, and increase our scientific understanding. While we have no hard-and-fast rules about what projects to take on, we organize our deliberation ...

Patrick Ball Honored with Degree at Claremont Graduate University

We’re happy to announce that our executive director, Patrick Ball, has been presented an honorary degree from Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. University President Deborah Freund presented the degree to Patrick at the university’s 88th annual commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16, 2015. The degree conferred was Doctor of Science honoris causa. “We at CGU are thrilled that Patrick Ball accepted our Honorary Degree invitation and joined us for commencement,” said Thomas Horan, CGU Professor and Director, Center for Information Systems and Technology. “Patrick’s work stands as a model for conducting first-r...

Celebrating Ten Years of Data from the AHPN

Ten years ago, in July 2005, human rights officers stumbled upon a nondescript warehouse in a commercial zone of Guatemala City and changed history. They had discovered an archive–its existence kept secret–belonging to the Guatemalan National Police, whose officers committed human rights atrocities on behalf of the government during the civil war. Inside the building was the bureaucratic detritus typical of a large government agency: 80 million pages detailing shifts worked, tasks assigned, assignments fulfilled, workers’ whereabouts, and who was supervising whom. The documents, which were found stacked on dirty floors, shoved into bags, ...

Analysis of Homicide Patterns in Colombia

Last week Forensis, the Colombian National Institute of Forensic Medicine’s flagship publication, published the first of our analyses of homicide patterns in Colombia. Authored by HRDAG executive director Patrick Ball and UN colleague Michael Reed Hurtado, “Cuentas y mediciones de la criminalidad y de la violencia” (pages 529-545) explores, as the title suggests, the quality of “truth” contained within crime registries. Citing the problem of partial data, missing data, and inherent design bias, Patrick and Michael write that no register, official or unofficial, can present a true reflection of what has really happened. This publication...

An Award for Anita Gohdes

On November 26, HRDAG colleague Anita Gohdes was awarded the German Dissertation Prize for the Social Sciences. The patron of the prize is the President of the German Parliament, Norbert Lammert, who presented Anita with the award. Anita’s dissertation, “Repression 2.0: The Internet in the War Arsenal of Modern Dictators,” investigates the role played by social media networks in modern dictatorships, such as President Assad’s regime in Syria. On one hand, Anita argues, social media can help opposition groups to organize more effectively, but on the other hand, the same networks allow regimes to monitor and manipulate the population. ...

Tech Corner

The HRDAG Tech Corner is where we collect the deeper and geekier content that we create for the website. Click the accordion blocks below to reveal each of the Tech Corner entries. Sifting Massive Datasets with Machine Learning Principled Data Processing  

Guilty Verdict and 40 year Maximum Sentence in Edgar Fernando Garcia Case


Policing

If you'd like to support HRDAG in this project, please consider making a donation via Our Donate page. Over the last year, HRDAG has deepened the national conversation about homicides by police, predictive policing software, and the role that bail plays in the criminal justice system. Our studies describe how the racial bias inherent in police practice becomes data input to predictive policing tools. In another project, we are shining light on the iniquities of bail decisions. TEAM Click each team member's photo for full bio. Here's the team on Twitter. Examining the Impact of Bail When a defendant is detained before trial, she will face ...

The task is a quantum of workflow

This post describes how we organize our work over ten years, twenty analysts, dozens of countries, and hundreds of projects: we start with a task. A task is a single chunk of work, a quantum of workflow. Each task is self-contained and self-documenting; I'll talk about these ideas at length below. We try to keep each task as small as possible, which makes it easy to understand what the task is doing, and how to test whether the results are correct. In the example I'll describe here, I'm going to describe work from our Syria database matching project, which includes about 100 tasks. I'll start with the first thing we do with files we receive ...

Criminality registration and measurement

Patrick Ball and Michael Reed Hurtado. 2016. El registro y la medición de la criminalidad. El problema de los datos faltantes y el uso de la ciencia para producir estimaciones en relación con el homicidio en Colombia, demostrado a partir de un ejemplo: el departamento de Antioquia (2003-2011). Revista Criminalidad, 58 (1): 9-23.

Patrick Ball and Michael Reed Hurtado. 2016. El registro y la medición de la criminalidad. El problema de los datos faltantes y el uso de la ciencia para producir estimaciones en relación con el homicidio en Colombia, demostrado a partir de un ejemplo: el departamento de Antioquia (2003-2011). Revista Criminalidad, 58 (1): 9-23. Criminality registration and measurement. The problem of missing data, and the use of science to produce estimations relating to homicide in Colombia, as demonstrated with an example from one of its administrative and political divisions: the Department of Antioquia (2003-2011).


BJS Report on Arrest-Related Deaths: True Number Likely Much Greater

(This post is co-authored by Patrick Ball and Kristian Lum.) Today the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a report on their effort to document “all deaths that occur during the process of arrest in the United States.” The analysis estimates that the Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) program covers only 34-49% of these deaths. A parallel program by the FBI (the Supplementary Homicide Reports, SHR) is estimated to cover approximately the same proportion of deaths. Even taking into consideration both programs, 28% of all police homicides remain unreported. In order to estimate the total number of homicides that appear on neither the ARD or ...

Our work has been used by truth commissions, international criminal tribunals, and non-governmental human rights organizations. We have worked with partners on projects on five continents.

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