Executive Director's Letter
August 18, 2015
The poster on the wall at the courthouse is a City Paper Best of Baltimore 2009 Award to Jury Duty for the best free air conditioning and movie. Other small, framed prints celebrate Baltimore and are mostly Greg Otto prints. I am in the quiet room, so unsure about today’s movie selection. But I do wonder who decides. Wouldn’t it be great if they were celebrating Baltimore filmmakers? Maybe movies interspersed with loops about area neighborhoods? How often are opportunities to curate public space missed, or perhaps avoided?
In the quiet room, a hum from the soda machine is punctuated by the occasional sneeze. By and large, it’s a place suited for reflection were it not coupled with anxiety. The minute you tell anyone you have jury duty, there is a knowing flood of ‘ughs’, “hope you have a high number”, “hope you don’t get a trial”, “hope you don’t get a criminal trial”. All of these sentiments are understandable given how disruptive this potentially multi-day experience can be.
But it really is a civic duty and where else would you join with such an interesting cross section of the city to spend time to participate in the system that so deeply affects people in our community? The internet connection is mostly nonexistent so it’s not easy to work. There are probably a lot of researchers and project managers who have thought about what you could do with us as we sit here. And we do hope to do something meaningful. Aren’t there newborn babies who need little tiny caps knitted for them?
Or, wouldn’t it be great to have a discussion? We could all read the same book in advance and then choose one of our fellow jurors to moderate a conversation --- have the opportunity to share our points of view? Just imagine a project that uses the arts and humanities to foster cooperation in a moment when it is so needed and in a society where civil dialogue is so lacking. Maybe we could even promote a better understanding of our criminal justice system and personalize the process.