This month, a judge in California cleared thousands of criminal records with one stroke of his pen. He did it thanks to a ground-breaking new algorithm that reduces a process that took months to mere minutes.
Piero Salazar is sitting at a wooden table, swamped by paperwork. His anxious family looks on. He’s one of around 50 or so people who have come to this community centre in San Fernando, near Los Angeles, to take part in an “expungement clinic” - a free service for those looking to get their criminal records removed or reduced.
The group had made Clear My Record, a tool that can analyse text in court files, using character recognition to decipher scanned documents. It discards any record involving a violent crime, as such records do not qualify. For those that remain, the tool automatically fills out the necessary paperwork. In other words, the algorithm replaced the process being done manually at the expungement clinics.