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This former Google employee is using data to help prisoners get out—and stay out—of the justice system

For founding Recidiviz, a data analytics platform that encourages prisons to work on keeping parolees out of jail, Clementine Jacoby is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2020

This former Google employee is using data to help prisoners get out—and stay out—of the justice system
[Illustration: André Gottschalk]

While working as a product manager at Google Maps three years ago, Clementine Jacoby began considering how analytics tools common in the private sector could be used for another purpose: helping state criminal justice agencies reduce incarceration. Jacoby had grown up with family members in and out of the criminal justice system and saw how difficult it was for them to escape it. Last year, she founded nonprofit Recidiviz to uncover data-driven insights about the best ways for prison officials to quickly and safely get people out of jail, and for parole officers to prevent recidivism. After a prison opts into using Recidiviz—­as more than 80 have done—the platform pulls data from its existing internal systems and transforms it into digestible, shareable data visualizations that can be used to inform institutional policies, such as how parolees’ trajectories change when officers help them find stable housing (and how individual parole officers’ efforts in this regard compare to each other). “You can suddenly use behavioral science and good design to shift their incentives,” Jacoby says. After the coronavirus led to the early release of many prisoners to prevent its spread, Recidiviz began collecting data about the impact. “A year from now, it will be the most interesting data set that we’ve ever seen in criminal justice,” Jacoby says.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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