Never be annoyed by jury duty again—use prisoners as jurors

by worstideas

Background:

Many citizens in countries with jury duty find it to be a somewhat burdensome obligation. Jurors are either unpaid, or paid only a nominal amount (on the order of a couple hours of minimum wage for an 8-hour day).

(Note that the jury system is by no means a requirement for a trial. In most countries, trial outcomes are determined exclusively by professional judges.)

The Issue:

Since trials can commonly last for weeks or months, and there is no provision for a person to be able to do their day job while they are on a jury, it can become very difficult for a juror to go about their life while the trial is in progress.

jury-duty-1

Fig 1: A hypothetical jury, randomly chosen from the local population. These 12 people probably would rather be somewhere else, but they’re doing their civic duty.

Proposal:

It might be possible to select from a group of individuals who are still more-or-less representative of the population as a whole, but whose lives would not be negatively disrupted by a lengthy trial. Specifically, the jury could be selected from the ranks of convicted criminals.

Since these individuals are already serving a prison sentence, they don’t have a job that would be interfered with, and there would be no need to ever “sequester” a jury made up of prisoners, since they are already sequestered by definition.

There is precedent for previous obligations being made optional, at least in the United States:

  • Church attendance (mandatory in the 1600s, now optional)
  • Military service (mandatory if drafted, now optional)

If the jury trial is to be retained, perhaps it too should be made optional for non-incarcerated individuals.

jury-duty-prisoners

Fig 2: A hypothetical jury of only prisoners (in anachronistic garb).

PROS: Saves time and money spent mailing out jury summonses, saves lost wages and productivity of the individuals on the jury. Gives the incarcerated individuals something productive to do that is probably more interesting than being in prison.

CONS: None!

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