Going To Jail as a Civic Duty

I was struck by an op-ed in the L.A. Times by novelist Jesse Ball in which he suggests that serving on jury duty may not be enough to fulfill our civic duty. His idea is that every 10 years we would be called to serve time at a prison. Just like most prisoners today we would not know which prison or for how long. He says anywhere from 3 to 90 days. Our lives would be disrupted just as that of those being incarcerated. We would be subject to all the prison’s regulations and to the way guards treat inmates. In short for that indeterminate period of time we would be just as any other member of the prison population. Ball’s idea is based on the notion of how can we as potential jurors fairly participate in the criminal justice system if we don’t have any idea of what we would be sending people to. It is more than unlikely that such an idea would ever be implemented. The criminal justice system has sufficient difficulty finding jurors. I surmise that if potential incarceration were to be added, people would no doubt find ways to avoid being counted, even if it meant not voting since juror lists usually come from voter registration ones. But the idea has merit. To my mind having judges and prosecuting attorneys spend time in jail may be more productive, certainly it would make them more mindful of their actions, perhaps hone in a bit of compassion. Some judges do attempt to be aware of the consequences of their rulings, but I wonder if that number could not be improved upon. Our prison system needs reform, drastic reform, and maybe sending potentials jurors to jail may not be feasible, but making judges more aware of prison conditions ought to be part of that reform.

4 thoughts on “Going To Jail as a Civic Duty”

Comments are closed.