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An increase in juror compensation throughout California from $15 to $100 is one step closer to becoming a reality

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    SAN FRANCISCO -- A proposal to pay certain people more for jury duty is expanding and is one step closer to becoming a reality statewide. The goal is to make the criminal justice system more equitable and juries, reflective of the general population.

    For those who are self-employed, or have employers who don't compensate for jury duty, a pilot program started last spring in San Francisco called "Be The Jury" which is meant to make serving more accessible.

    "One of the main barriers was people are paid only $15 a day to serve on a jury. If they serve on a jury they'd have to forgo the money they'd make that day," says Anne Stuhldreher, Director of the Financial Justice Project who oversees the program.

    RELATED: Proposed changes to Alameda County courts: Jurors could have to travel farther

    She says there have been 800 qualified participants so far, including those under certain income brackets. Each received $100 a day.

    The results were eye-opening.

    "People have an average income of $38,000. Almost all of them say they couldn't have served on a jury but for this $100 stipend so it really made a difference," said Stuhldreher.

    She says the demographic makeup of those who participated on juries because of the stipend, is also more reflective of the community.

    "The majority of folks serving are people of color and the demo almost matches the demo of San Francisco, 60%," said Stuhldreher.

    The pilot will expand to Los Angeles, Alameda, Kern and Monterey counties and cost just over $5 million from the general fund.

    Assemblymember Phil Ting sponsored the legislation and acknowledges $100 a day won't replace everyone's paycheck.

    MORE: Coronavirus Impact: Pandemic creates challenges as San Francisco tries to resume jury trials

    "If you're making minimum wage, you'll be making more than $100 a day, but at least then you can decide if that public service and duty is worth the sacrifice," said Ting.

    Many ABC7 News spoke with who have served jury duty in the past say it will make the promise spelled out in the Bill of Rights and Constitution, for a jury to be made up of peers to become more of a reality.

    "Jury duty that's part of the constitution, that's how the justice system works. It needs to be more open, if we want everyone to participate we need to put down as many barriers as possible," says Elizabeth Allen.

    The bill for the program to expand to additional counties has passed the assembly and is making its way through the Senate. If approved by Governor Gavin Newsom in October, it'll go into effect Jan. 1.

    More information about the qualifications of the program can be found here

    If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live

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