Unlocking the Jury Box

Recording of Unlocking the Jury Box: How Felony Disenfranchisement Contributes to America's Jury Diversity Problem, a webinar hosted by NACDL for Second Chance Month 2022. 

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Across the country, our nation’s juries fail to represent the racial, ethnic, and socio-economic diversity of the communities from which they are drawn. While a variety of factors contribute to these disparities, including the use of limited source lists, language barriers, discriminatory use of peremptory strikes, and compensation rates, one of the most impactful is the exclusion of those with prior criminal convictions. According to Prison Policy Initiative, laws that exclude individuals with a criminal record from serving on a jury bar more than 20 million individuals from jury service. Since people of color are over-criminalized in the legal system, these jury exclusion laws disproportionately impact communities of color.  This harm is compounded when accounting for the overrepresentation of people of color as an accused individual and underrepresentation of people of color as jurors.

Research has shown diverse juries do their job better. Racially diverse juries deliberate longer, get more facts correct, rectify more errors, are more willing to discuss issues of race, and consider a broader range of evidence. In short, they get it right more often. In addition, public confidence in the accuracy, fairness, and legitimacy of a jury’s decision increases substantially when the jury that rendered the verdict reflects the community it is supposed to be representing.

On Thursday, April 21st, 2022, NACDL hosted Unlocking the Jury Box: How Felony Disenfranchisement Contributes to America’s Jury Diversity Problem. This panel discussion tackled the impact of felony disenfranchisement laws on jury service, jury diversity, and the importance of representative juries. The panel discussion was moderated by NACDL’s Public Defense Counsel Monica Milton, and featured Naila Awan, Director of Advocacy at Prison Policy Initiative; Nina Chernoff, Professor at CUNY School of Law; and Sodiqa Williams, General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Supportive Reentry Division at Safer Foundation. 

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