Jury Duty

I have jury duty tomorrow. I’ve never been called before, although I’ve been a registered voter for over a decade. I used to sort of hope to get called, because I thought it would be interesting. I’m the nerd who, on a sixth-grade trip to the WV Supreme Court, actually listened to the cases instead of playing MASH on the back of the handout they gave us.

Now, I’m less excited. It’s inconvenient, of course, but that’s never stopped me from doing whatever I want. I’m just conflicted about participating in a legal system that I find questionable at best. I do not believe that jail or fines change people. I also don’t believe the threat of them is a strong deterrent–if that were the case, wouldn’t the USA have the lowest crime rates in the world? The role of plea bargains is another thing that feels messy. How many people are pressured into admitting to something they didn’t do, just so they can avoid a harsh sentence and a trial that drags on?

I’m sure many, if not all, of the cases that will be on the docket will have to do with drugs. The “War on Drugs” is a policy that has been actively failing since I was in kindergarten. We spend so much money and time busting and imprisoning people over this–and, again, it’s not like the fear of prison keeps people from using or dealing drugs.

When someone is injured (robbed, killed, raped, etc) by someone else, does putting the perpetrator behind bars give anything back to the victim? I’m intrigued by models of restorative justice, where the victims are asked what will actually help them move forward in their lives. It’s a slower model of justice, but one that has potential to actually change people instead of just punishing them.

I’m probably overthinking this. I described my feelings to my small group from church last night. One of the guys said, “Just tell them that, and they’ll ask you to leave immediately.”


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