Making the Justice System Just

Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights tells us that we all have a right to a fair trial. With the help of two excellent guests speakers today, campers were able to explore how this right connects to several issues that they are hearing about in their communities.

We started out our morning with the question, What does it take to make a trial fair? Campers identified the importance of having an impartial jury, competent judges, capable attorneys, truthful witnesses, and in some cases, qualified language interpreters. It was easy for them to see how the lack of any of these elements would compromise the fairness of a trial, and how all parts of the system need to be functioning and adequately funded to ensure this human right. To help us think deeper, we welcomed attorney Marilyn Primovic. Besides being a veteran Peacebuilders Camp facilitator, Marilyn is a Fulton County, Georgia public defender who is dedicated to making sure her clients receive a fair treatment within the criminal justice system. Sharing from her experience and expertise, she helped us understand the problems with the cash bail system, how plea bargains sabotage the right to a fair trial, and importantly, what young people should and shouldn’t do if they are arrested. Besides the tremendous gift of her time, the campers each received a copy of the book What Are My Rights? Q and A about Teens and the Law as a gift from Marilyn.

We were also joined by Tifanny Burks, a community organizer from south Florida who emceed a Jeopardy game with questions about racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Tifanny inspired us with her passion and shared with us a number of surprising facts about policing, prisons, and the police presence in schools. Can you answer these questions from our game?

Afternoon discussions gave campers time to process some of what they had learned, and to carry out some rapid research for their peacemaking project. We rounded out this very full day with the movie Marshall, and ended with reflections on the ways our justice system has and has not changed since Thurgood Marshall’s days as a defense attorney in the 1940s. So much to think about as we end our day and prepare for tomorrow!

Answers to Jeopardy questions:

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