Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Jury

Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Jury

Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Jury

Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Jury


Focusing contemporary democratic theory on the neglected topic of punishment,Punishment, Participatory Democracy, and the Juryargues for increased civic engagement in criminal justice as an antidote to the American penal state. Albert W. Dzur considers how the jury, rather than merely expressing unreflective public opinion, may serve as a participatory institution that gathers and utilizes citizen's juridical capabilities. In doing so, the book resists trends in criminal justice scholarship that blame increases in penal severity on citizen participation and rejects political theorists' longstanding skepticism of lay abilities.

Dzur distinguishes constructive citizen involvement that takes responsibility for public problems from a mass politics mobilized superficially around single issues. This more positive view of citizen action, which was once a major justification for the jury trial, is now also manifest in the restorative justice movement, which has incorporated lay people into community boards and sentencing circles. Both jury trials and restorative justice programs, Dzur explains, are examples of rational disorganization, in which lay citizen action renders a process less efficient yet also contributes valuable qualities such as attunement, reflectiveness, and full-bodied communication. While restorative justice programs and participatory policy forums such as citizens' juries have become attractive to reformers, traditional juries have suffered a steep and troubling decline.Punishment,Participatory Democracy, and the Juryadvocates a broader role for jurors in the criminal courts and more widespread use of jury trials.

Though no panacea for a political culture grown too comfortable with criminalization and incarceration, participatory institutional designs that rationally disorganize punishment practices and slow down criminal justice can increase civic responsibility and public awareness about the need to find alternative paths forward for America's broken penal system.


Put starkly, the crucial political issue of our times concerns the
incompatibility between the culture of everyday reality to which
political democracy should be attuned and the culture of virtual

—SHELDON wolin

What is Avoided at All Costs and yet Fills Every Spare Minute?

Popular sovereignty takes too many evenings. Barely able to monitor children’s progress in school, to comprehend changes to our medical insurance, to overcome personal grief and suffering, many turn to the experts and professionals in these fields, the teachers, accountants, doctors, psychologists, and ministers who are also, in their own ways, incompetent. So close to losing control nearly every day in our own lives, how could we usefully take up control of our collective life together? Secluding ourselves in suburbs and exurbs after long days and dual career commuting to insecure jobs, we may be better suited for the tending of virtual worlds.

Once inside a virtual world, however, it is stunning to see the elaborate nature of the rules, procedures, and norms. in SimCity, Second Life, and Active Worlds, participants learn expectations and exercise habits of citizenship, albeit in the form of keystrokes and mouse clicks. These massively multiplayer worlds are inclusive and yet also highly individuating, as avatars cultivate their own legitimate strangeness. Residents find them manageable, enjoyable, and responsive in a way their off-line existence . . .

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