Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Does RI have a just system or a 'system' of justice? | Opinion Column - The Providence Journal

Guest columnist

Lance Eaton is an educator and writer living in Cranston.

After finishing grand jury duty at Providence Superior Court, my belief in the criminal justice system has not improved. This court-side view of the methods and mechanisms of this “justice” system presented me with a lot more questions about what justice is, who gets to be a part of that system and, as importantly, who gets left out. That’s not to disparage the individuals who are working to enact justice and be good-faith actors in the system.

In Rhode Island, grand jury duty consists of six weeks. Each day ranges from an hour (not including commuting) to six hours, at $25 a day. While employers cannot fire jurors, state law does not require employers to pay them. Who can actually afford the luxury of time-shifting work or diminishing income to serve?

More:A secret and a plea: Rhode Island lawmaker shares her 40-year search for justice

Among the 23 jurors was one person of color; most police and detectives interviewed were white. The suspects were overwhelmingly people of color. In a country where there are different outcomes for suspects along racial lines in our justice system, how much should the jury pool reflect society or even the suspects?

The state interviewed witnesses with rapid fire questioning. When done, we were asked if we had questions. If we didn’t have questions within three seconds, they dismissed the witness. Who can synthesize a vast amount of information fast enough to create...

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