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Contact Information: Tanya Klein Public Relations 973-596-3433

Jury Duty Promotes Civic Engagement, Says NJIT Research Director’s New Book

NJIT’s Director of Institutional Research Perry Deess has co-authored a new book answering an age-old question long troubling the most astute political scientists: Does jury service really promote civic engagement?  

The Jury and Democracy: How Jury Deliberation Promotes Civic Engagement and Political Participation (Oxford University Press, October of 2010) provides compelling systematic evidence to support this view. “Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, and the U.S. Supreme Court have all alleged that jury service promotes civic and political engagement, yet none could prove it,” said Deess. “Finally, The Jury and Democracy provides real information that jury service does change the way people think and act.”  

Drawing from in-depth interviews, thousands of juror surveys, and court and voting records from across the United States, the authors show that serving on a jury can trigger changes in how citizens view themselves, their peers, and their government--and can even significantly increase electoral turnout among infrequent voters.

Jury service also sparks long-term shifts in media use, political action, and community involvement.   In an era when involved Americans are searching for ways to inspire their fellow citizens, The Jury and Democracy offers a plausible and realistic path for turning passive spectators into active political participants. 

This is the first book to present strong empirical evidence linking jury service and increased civic participation  It demonstrates the impact jury service has on even the most disengaged citizens. The text is based on original research, interviews and more.

Co-authors include John Gastil, professor of communication and adjunct professor of political science, University of Washington; Philip J. Weiser, professor of law, University of Colorado; Cindy Simmons, an attorney who teaches mass media law and negotiation, University of Washington.

Reviewers noted:

"This profoundly important and highly readable book offers the most thorough examination yet of the impact of serving on a jury. Anyone who cares about how juries affect our democracy should read this book." Valerie Hans, co-author, American Juries; professor of law, Cornell University.

"Most people think citizenship begins with voting and ends with taxes. But jury service is in truth more critical to and definitive of democracy. In their rich study of the place of the jury in democracy, Gastil and his colleagues offer powerful evidence showing how jury service can create social capital and transform citizens. Their study is a persuasive portrait of juries but an equally compelling celebration of democracy's possibilities--a welcome riposte to the political cynicism of a polarized America." Benjamin R. Barber, author, Strong Democracy and Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos.

"I have been waiting decades for a study like this. For the first time we have data on a large sample showing indisputably that taking civic responsibility in one realm promotes taking civil responsibility later in another. This groundbreaking, careful, and illuminating study is a must for anyone interested in what political theorists have long called the 'educative effects' of participation."  Jane Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, Kennedy School, Harvard University

NJIT, New Jersey's science and technology university, enrolls approximately 10,000 students pursuing bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in 120 programs. The university consists of six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, College of Architecture and Design, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, College of Computing Sciences and Albert Dorman Honors College. U.S. News & World Report's 2012 Annual Guide to America's Best Colleges ranked NJIT in the top tier of national research universities. NJIT is internationally recognized for being at the edge in knowledge in architecture, applied mathematics, wireless communications and networking, solar physics, advanced engineered particulate materials, nanotechnology, neural engineering and e-learning. Many courses and certificate programs, as well as graduate degrees, are available online through the Division of Continuing Professional Education.