The Digital Divide in the Criminal Justice System and its Implications for Social Justice by Fanny A. Ramirez
Fanny A. Ramirez is an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University where she holds a joint appointment with the Manship School of Mass Communication and LSU’s interdisciplinary Center for Computation and Technology. Her research examines the use of information communication technologies in criminal justice and sexual violence contexts with an eye towards issues of inequality, discrimination, and privacy.
The growing use of digital evidence from smartphones and social media has led to a digital divide in the U.S. criminal justice system that advantages law enforcement and prosecutors while further increasing the vulnerability of poor people and people of color who rely on public legal assistance. Drawing on a year-long ethnographic study of one of the first digital forensics laboratories in a public defender office, I argue that digital inclusion in the form of better resources for public defenders is necessary for equitable and fair representation in today’s criminal justice system. Today's talk will draw on case studies to show that access to digital forensic technologies is an important equalizing tool that allows public defenders to 1) mount strong, data-driven cases, 2) create counter narratives that challenge depictions of marginalized defendants as dangerous, and 3) engage in nuanced storytelling to highlight the complexities of human relationships and life circumstances that shape cases.