Monday, April 14, 2008

jury duty

“I have to find something to really make me look like an engineer,” Mike said this morning while looking through his closet, “so they don’t pick me.”

He grinned widely and pulled out an olive green short –sleeved button down shirt and UPS-brown pants. (I didn’t even want to go near him.)

Then, he was off to jury duty.

This has been a dilemma for me ever since three and a half years ago when I got that letter in the mail and showed up at the courthouse only to be told to go home before 9 a.m. I was barely pregnant and afraid I might throw up on someone official that could take it the wrong way. It was still a dilemma for me when, just earlier this year, I wrote an eloquently dramatic letter stating the reasons it was impossible for me to serve on a jury, like how I needed to care for my son, who was not yet three at the time. All the reasons I stated were quite true and veiled me with a kind of melancholy about the job I do, alone, as mom every day.

But the root of the dilemma is that I believe mothers of young children have to be excused from jury duty whenever necessary, and yet, that means that a significant portion of the population, a portion of which I am a member and about which I feel strongly when it comes to needing more voice and less isolation in our society, ends up excluded from the public end of the justice system.

Has anyone researched this? Likely, but I don’t have time to look for it. It’s an NPR story waiting to happen.

I’m not saying I’d be thrilled to serve on a jury. (Though think of the writing it could produce!) But I do know that something our penal system could benefit from is the warmth and wisdom of a mom.

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