Hey Watson: Local judge first to use IBM’s artificial intelligence on juvenile cases

Montgomery County’s Capizzi teams with IBM to design system for children’s court.

You’ve probably seen IBM’s Watson talking on TV commercials, but Montgomery County is part of pilot project that would put the lightning-fast, artificial intelligence system into the hands of judges across the country.

Judge Anthony Capizzi said juvenile court cases now are more complicated by drugs and dysfunction within households. Getting the most out of technology is one way courts can get ahead of the opioid epidemic and the other crises that disrupt young lives, he said.

“As a judge you get so much information from so many different groups: probation officers, behavioral health providers, police departments, educators,” Capizzi said. “I envision using the Watson system to give me more information in a more concise way to allow me to better treat the children and the families I serve.”

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The solution beats sifting through anywhere from 30 to 300 pages of paperwork in the five to seven minutes he may have for each of 30-35 juveniles seen during a typical treatment court docket, said Capizzi, with the court since 2004.

Montgomery County was the first to pilot the technology in a U.S. specialty juvenile court, said Eric Fichtel, director of Care Management for Watson Health.

“We signed him up as a design partner and literally had our development and design team sit through his court,” Fichtel said. “He was basically the first client for this particular use.”

Beginning last fall, Capizzi and his Montgomery County colleagues helped IBM develop the digital case file by blending the local court’s experience handling tough children’s cases with the capability of Watson’s cognitive technology. The resulting system displays a dashboard of cloud-based information that can be updated in real-time by any court officer, whether down the hall or in the field, Capizzi said.

The dashboard focuses on the areas Capizzi said are essential: A summary of a child’s situation, the most recent and past few drug screens, their current educational situation and living arrangement. It also shows incentives or sanctions given the child by the court, as well as any behavioral diagnosis, counseling, therapy or treatment. If a youth is employed – which Capizzi requires of anyone 16 and older – that information is displayed.

RELATED: Montgomery County juvenile judge becomes president of national group

“The Watson Care system gives me the ability to truly spend almost all the time on the child and family’s needs,” he said.”I’m not on the bench shuffling through paperwork.”

If required, a court officer can navigate deeper into the system to retrieve all the information within a case, he said.

IBM debuted the system last year, gaining users of a previous version first among healthcare providers. In addition to Montgomery County’s juvenile treatment court, a few other specialty courts — ones focusing on adults, veterans and parolee re-entry — also now use the technology, Fichtel said. Use is priced per person under care by the month, he said.

As a development partner, the local court is currently using the new Watson system at no charge. However, an Ohio Supreme Court grant of $80,000 was used to help integrate its existing computers with the IBM system.

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If adopted statewide, the Watson system would help standardize best practices, which are not currently uniform throughout Ohio’s 88 counties, Capizzi said. And the longer the system is used, the more useful it will become in helping guide decisions, he said.

“Watson accumulates information, and the more information it gets, the more it learns. Then it can give you feedback,” Capizzi said. “The concept is that as we feed into Watson more scenarios, it will be able to give back to me in a year or 18 months suggested solutions to a problem.”

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