SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – A San Francisco pilot program aimed at increasing jurors of color was successful, and now a state legislator wants to make it a law in California.

“We have a problem of getting low-income people to serve as jurors,” said Brendon Woods, Alameda County public defender.

California State Assembly Bill 881 was announced at a press conference Wednesday as the solution to that problem. The bill, if passed, would be an expansion of a one-of-a-kind pilot program called Be the Jury launched back in March 2022 in San Francisco. 

“This has been so successful in San Francisco, we want to roll it out statewide,” said California Assemblymember Phil Ting. AB 881 aims to ease the financial hardship of jury service, according to Ting, the bill’s author.

“Nobody should not be allowed to serve on a jury because they don’t have enough money, because their job doesn’t allow it, because somehow there is a personal circumstance,” said Ting.

The jury program removes the financial hardship in civic duty participation by increasing the daily juror stipend from $15 a day to $100 a day. Eighty-one percent of participants in the pilot stated they could not have served without the financial incentive.

Kiswensida Kola said the program allowed him to be a juror in a trial that lasted three months. “The daily pay that I received from the program allowed me to stay during the trial,” said Kola.

Results from the program showed an increase in racial and economic diversity on juries in San Francisco. The city’s district attorney and public defender also happen to be a co-sponsors of the bill.

“Most of the jurors of color, who are Black and Latino jurors, would apply for hardships. Often time the hardships had to be granted by the judges and there they would walk right out of the door,” said San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.

KRON On is streaming news live now

“The public does not want people pleading to thing they did not do because they fear, correctly, that they cannot get a fair cross section of the community in a jury trial,” said Mano Raju, San Francisco public defender.

Alameda County’s public defender added his support in seeing the program in the East Bay. “Oakland does not have a shortage of Black people. I wish we had more, but we don’t have a shortage. We do have shortage when it comes to those serving as jurors,” said Woods.

Following the announcement, Assembly Bill 881 will now start making its way through the state legislature.