Screened & Scored in D.C.

The D.C. government outsources critical governmental decisions to automated decision-making systems in areas such as public benefits, healthcare, policing, and housing. As a result, District residents are surveilled, screened, and scored every day. But because of weak government transparency laws, opaque procurement processes, the power and influence of tech vendors, and the decline in local journalism, it has been difficult to uncover the details of how many automated decision-making systems are used in government programs. 

EPIC spent 14 months investigating the D.C. government’s use of automated decision-making systems. This report aims to shed light by providing as comprehensive a view as possible of the many automated decision-making systems that shape the course of District residents’ lives. 

Screened & Scored in D.C. Panel Discussion

On September 21, EPIC hosted a panel about the use of automated decision-making systems throughout the District of Columbia. EPIC Scholar-In-Residence Virginia Eubanks moderated a panel of National Fair Housing Alliance’s Dr. Michael Akinwumi, Upturn’s Natasha Duarte, CLASP and JustTech’s Clarence Okoh, and EPIC Counsel Ben Winters. As part of EPIC’s ongoing Screening and Scoring Project, the panel wove topics from in EPIC’s Screened and Scored in the District of Columbia report with the panelist’s work and expertise.

FOI Documents

As part of the research for Screened & Scored in D.C., EPIC sent a number of Freedom of Information records requests to D.C. agencies and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. We have also included records released from the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency obtained from previous work related to automated decision-making systems in the criminal justice context. EPIC will continue to update this section as new information is released. We are still awaiting responses from the following D.C. agencies: D.C. Public Schools, Dept. of Health Care Finance, Child and Family Services Agency, and the Dept. of Transportation.

Automated Decision-Making Systems in D.C.

IssueAgencyToolGoals/Decisions Made
EducationUniversity of the District of ColumbiaAspire, Accomplish, Take on the World (A.AC.T) — EAB, Inc.’s Risk Assessment for Student GuidanceTo increase graduation rates by predicting which students are not likely to graduate and alerting school support staff
EducationOffice of Deputy Mayor for EducationEdScape — a set of interactive visualizations and downloadable datasets.To (1) act as a usable source of information that informs how and where new schools, programs, or facility capacity is needed, and (2) provide the public with the same information as policymakers for transparency
EducationOffice of Deputy Mayor for EducationEdStat — a statistical modelTo increase school attendance
HealthD.C. Office of Veterans AffairsCOVID-19 Prognostic Tool Developed In-HouseTo inform COVID-19 treatment and clinical training by automatically generating a 120-day mortality risk score for patients based on age, BMI, preexisting health conditions, and vital signs
HealthD.C. Department of HealthPrescription Drug Monitoring ProgramTo reduce misuse and diversion of prescription drugs by monitoring when and how often certain drugs (opioids, benzodiazepine, etc.) are prescribed
HealthD.C. Medicaid/Department of Health Care FinanceElectronic Visit Verification (EVV) by Sandata Technologies LLCTo ensure people receiving home-based healthcare are receiving proper support (and being billed accordingly) by tracking data about beneficiaries, their caregivers, and the services rendered
HealthD.C. Department of Health Care FinanceInterRAI-Home Care (InterRAI HC)To facilitate continuing medical care and flag health risks through assessments capturing and evaluating patient data
HousingD.C. Housing AuthorityRentGrow — a risk-assessment algorithmTo screen out applicants for housing based on predictions of who won’t make payments on time
HousingInteragency Council on HomelessnessVulnerability Index and Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) — a statistical tool developed by OrgCode Consulting, Inc.To assist case workers in determining who gets housing assistance first and what that assistance looks like
HousingInteragency Council on HomelessnessService Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (SPDAT) — a statistical tool developed by OrgCode Consulting, Inc.A more comprehensive tool than VI-SPDAT used on individuals who are presumed to be highly vulnerable but score too low on the VI-SPDAT to qualify for permanent supportive housing
HousingD.C. Department of BuildingsProactive Inspection Program Risk-Based AlgorithmTo make housing code violation inspections more efficient by using factors like a building’s age and landlord’s history of violations to determine the which houses should be inspected when
Economic OpportunityD.C. Department of Human ServicesPondera—FraudCaster & CaseTrackerTo monitor and manage SNAP referrals and identify potential fraud by analyzing recipient data and generating fraud risk scores
Economic OpportunityD.C. Department of Employment ServicesPondera—FraudCaster & CaseTrackerTo identify potential improper payments and fraud in the unemployment insurance program by compiling data about each recipient and generating an algorithmic risk score
Economic OpportunityOffice of Contracting and Procurement/Department of General ServicesDun and Bradstreet’s Data Universal Numbering System (D-U-N-S)To score companies bidding for government contracts that is similar to credit scores using proprietary ratings based on predictive analytics, as well as past suits, liens, and judgments
Economic OpportunityD.C. Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF)District of Columbia Access System (DCAS)To integrate and streamline the Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF benefits process through automated, real-time verification of eligibility information
Criminal JusticeD.C. Department of Youth and Rehabilitative ServicesStructured Decision Making (SDM) Tool, developed by DYRS and the Annie E. Casey FoundationTo better rehabilitate youth offenders by predicting how likely they are to re-offend and informing how restrictive their placement will be (e.g., whether they will be placed in a juvenile facility) using factors like prior adjudications, school attendance regularity, and peer relationships
Criminal JusticeD.C. Department of Youth and Rehabilitative ServicesChild And Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS) and Pre-School and Early Childhood Assessment Scale (PECFAS)To improve youth treatment and rehabilitation by assessing youth offenders’ day-to-day functioning across different life skills to help determine their placement and treatment during (or instead of) commitment to a facility
Criminal JusticeDepartment of Forensic SciencesAutomated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS)To facilitate forensic investigations by analyzing fingerprints and alerting investigators when a fingerprint matches an existing record in the AFIS database
Criminal JusticeMetropolitan Police Department (MPD)Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) —cameras equipped with technology that selectively finds license plates, reads them, and sends the info to a central database.To automatically capture license plate numbers, store them in an MPD database, and compare them to a “hot list” of wanted license plates
Criminal JusticeMetropolitan Police Department (MPD)ShotspotterTo detect gunshots through acoustics in real-time and alert authorities
Criminal JusticeMetropolitan Police Department (MPD)Predictive Policing (funded by Department of Justice)To inform policing efforts through predictive data analytics
Criminal JusticeMetropolitan Police Department (MPD)TrapWireTo analyze citizens’ reports of “suspicious activity”
Criminal JusticeMetropolitan Police Department (MPD)D.C. Gang DatabaseTo track suspected gang members, direct surveillance and police activity toward tracked individuals and increase sentence severity for those convicted
Criminal JusticeD.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT)D.C. StreetSafe —Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE)To automatically detect and record traffic violations, which human officers review to issue fines
Criminal JusticeD.C. Department of Pretrial ServicesPre-Trial Risk Assessment Instrument (RAI)To recommend appropriate release conditions for criminal defendants by generating individual recidivism risk scores using 43 factors from five categories—criminal history, current charge, criminal justice system status, drug test results, and social/demographic attributes   
Criminal JusticeD.C. Sentencing CommissionThe Guidelines Reporting Information Data (GRID) System and Guidelines Scoring System (GSS)To monitor sentencing trends and inform sentencing guidelines by integrating arrest, court, and criminal history data and calculating criminal history scores
Criminal JusticeD.C. Superior Court’s Family Court, Social Services Division, D.C. Child Guidance ClinicStructured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY)To inform juvenile sentencing decisions by evaluating 24 factors, including an offender’s criminal history, social factors, and demographic information, and assigning offenders a recidivism risk score

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