The Los Angeles Times editorial board wrote an op-ed Tuesday arguing that not only should former inmates be given the right to vote, but they should be allowed to serve on juries as well.
The LA Times claimed that former inmates deserve “a clean slate and a chance to start over,” and part of that chance is restoring their duty to judge fellow citizens with respect to the law. The editorial board lauded California for automatically restoring an inmate’s right to vote after he has served his sentence, but also urged lawmakers to pass a bill granting felons jury eligibility as well.
The Times dismissed arguments claiming convicted felons are poor judges of character and argued instead that lawmakers who oppose the bill are simply “more concerned with currying favor with law enforcement and prosecutorial groups than the ability of their constituents to fully reenter society.”
“There is a process for examining members of the jury pool for prejudice and fitness to serve, and for excusing those who are less likely to be fair,” the board wrote. “That’s the way it works with prospective jurors who are crime victims, lawyers, insurance adjusters, human resource managers, elected officials — any of whom might harbor some kind of prejudice based on their experiences or outlooks, and all of whom are subject to examination and dismissal where appropriate. They are not subject to blanket bans against being even considered for jury service, nor should they be. Neither should convicted felons who have done their time.”
Some argue a blanket ban is necessary because those who have broken the law severely enough to go to prison may not be qualified interpreters of the law. The Times did not address this, however, instead claiming that post-prison penalties like the ban are “spiteful and stupid.”
“We encounter former felons every day, working alongside us, driving next to us, living across the street,” the board wrote. “Once a sentence is completed a citizen should be able to fully return to the fold, with all rights — and duties — returned, consistent with public safety.”
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