Facial Recognition

I am for the implementation of the Facial and Object Recognition System (FORS) in the Lockport schools. There I said it. I know this might be an unpopular stance but it is the way I feel. I believe an integral part of journalism is to present both sides of an issue and to write how I feel not to just agree with the prevailing opinion. I expect very little support and a lot of blow back due to my opinion but with all the articles condemning FORS I thought it was time to hear from the other side.

Perhaps the most persuasive reason to have FORS in schools is that it could make our children safer. FORS allows the software to look at it’s photographic database to identify a person and see if he or she is supposed to be on school property. It can also identify a person who is prohibited to be near a school like sexual predators, fired employees and gang members. It can then alert an armed, trained school resource officer, a Lockport city policeman or a Lockport policeman moonlighting as a school security guard to approach the unknown person to evaluate their intent.

Initial security should be to lock all the doors while school is in session so no one from the outside can get in. The doors in Lockport are being locked right now.  I know this isn’t a perfect solution because a person could wait near a door till someone opens the door so they can gain access. This also wouldn’t stop a person who is supposed to be there from committing a crime and we can’t lock all the doors from the inside due to fire and other safety concerns but FORS would add an additional layer of protection.

Facial Recognition is the highest speed biometric technology available. This has only one function and that is to recognize human faces. Forget the eye scanners and thumbprint readers, FORS currently analyzes the unique characteristics of a person’s facial images that are taken by a digital video camera. It’s the least invasive way and provides no delays and makes people completely oblivious to the process.

Whether you know it or not, FR software is out there and is currently being used right now. Facial recognition has been around in one form or another since the 1960s but recent technological developments have led to a wide proliferation of this technology.

Face recognition has been used to find missing children and victims of human trafficking. If missing individuals are in a database, law enforcement can be alerted when they are recognized by face recognition in an airport, retail store or other public space. Three thousand missing children were discovered in just four days using face recognition according to the website facefirst.com.

The best in facial recognition technology is currently available. The Apple’s iPhone X represents the beginning of a new era by using Facial Recognition Technology to unlock a smartphone. This is made possible by the cautiously running infrared and 3D sensors that work with a forward facing camera. The system’s unlock would is practically instantaneous and does not need the user to press any buttons.

But this is hardly the only example. There is the infamous Facebook facial recognition software whose power and accuracy is better than the FBI’s systems! Each time you post a photo or tag your friends on Facebook, you provide massive help for thier facial recognition algorithm.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection began testing facial recognition technology at around a dozen U.S. airports. The New York Times reported on the use of FR for security purposes in the private sector, notably in Madison Square Garden and at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Despite broad experimentation, there is no federal law governing the use of FR, although Illinois and Texas have laws that mandate informed consent. Whether used by governments or in private enterprise, the technology appears to be developing faster than the law.

Instead of utilizing manual recognition, which would be done by a security guard or the approved representatives not on the premises, the facial recognition technology automates the identification process and ensures its flawlessness every time without any pause.

Anyone that has a problem getting photographed by “Big Brother” might be advised to look around. There are cameras everywhere like Walmart, Home Depot and Walgreens to name a few. With the low price of digital, video surveillance systems, even my neighbors have them.

Facial recognition software can be used to quickly detect perpetrators of identity fraud. The New York Department of Motor Vehicles’ Facial Recognition Technology Program has been doing just that, with 21,000 possible identity fraud cases identified since 2010.

Aside from public usage by airports and railway stations, stadiums. There is even an adaptation of facial recognition for use in medical applications by diagnosing diseases that cause detectable changes in appearance.

Some citizens may resent the idea that the government obtains, holds, and uses their biometric data without their consent. Anyone who holds a passport or has sought a visa should not be surprised that the government at least has this information, even if the individual has not expressly consented to allow the government to retain it.

Like I said, I am for anything that has the potential to protect our children.

Norb is a freelance journalist from Lockport. His children and grandchildren have been/are Lockport students.

Advertisements

Watching Children

Donna and I watch our grandchildren and a few other children. As we counted them up, we have watched over 20 children not counting our own children. I think that babysitting your grand-kids improves and extends your life and studies have confirmed that.

If you discovered the secret to a longer and more meaningful life I am sure we would all do it.  Apparently, watching children is that secret. People frequently say that being around children will make you feel younger and reports can actually measure and identify the benefits from caring for children. If the experts are all saying that “caregiving” gives older people a purpose in life and helps keeps them active, then maybe even small doses of babysitting may extend your life.

 “Caregiving may give caregivers a purpose of life because caregivers may feel useful for the others and for the society,” said Bruno Arpino, who was the associate professor at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, in 2016, according to Reuters Health.

Researchers have actually found that grandparents who watch their grandchildren have a tendency to live longer than seniors who don’t. Researchers with Berlin Aging Study conducted investigations over almost 20 years on the effect of caregiving on mortality. The study was published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior in 2016.

The Berlin study showed that after factoring in grandparents’ age and state of health, the risk of dying over a 20-year period was one-third less for seniors who took care of children as compared to those who didn’t. More than 500 seniors were interviewed and had medical tests at their homes, doctors’ offices, and hospitals, and these tests were repeated every other year between 1990 and 2009.

Participants were asked how often they cared for children of during the last year. This was defined as looking after or doing something with a child without the parents being there. Then this was scored from 1 (never) to 7 (every day). The sample did not include any primary caregivers who had full custody of the children, though it did include those who watched non-family members.

We are watching both grandchildren and children of friends that I affectionately call the strays or OPCs (Other People’s Children). The oldest OPC, Andrew, will be 22 in August and lives in Arlington Texas. Donna started watching him after the company Donna was working for closed. We are looking forward to seeing Joedin this summer another of our OPCs. She and her family moved to North Carolina seeking employment. She comes up during the summer to spend time with us. We think of them both often. They feel just like kin to us.

This study concluded that spending time with your grandchildren and helping friends and family members with their children most likely gives people a feeling of purposefulness and assists them to keep mentally and physically active running after a child. Anyone who has looked after a preschooler can attest to having to be physically active.

We are in our 70’s and are still looking after grandchildren and OPCs. Every time a child leaves our care due to entering school, moving or a change in their family situation, we discuss taking on another child. We both agree that we don’t need the money or that it’s tiring for us to do but then someone asks “Are you still watching children?” We always answer yes and take on another child.

As per Reuters Health, half of the grandparents who took care of their grandchildren were still alive 10 years from their first interview. Whereas, those who didn’t provide help lived for only about five years. It is extremely important however for every person to decide, just what “moderate amounts of help” means. As long as you do not feel frazzled about the help you provide you might just be doing something good for others and for yourself.

Researchers have found that grandparent babysitters had a 37% lower mortality risk than adults of the same age that do not provide care. Research has also indicated that people involved in providing care to children had a reduced risk of dying during the study follow up than people that didn’t watch children. But the study can’t prove cause and effect can only suggest this correlation.

So if you are a senior, go find some relatives or neighbors who need your help or support part-time. It might be a challenge but there are all sorts of ways you can help others. Watching kids so mom and dad can work or have a night out, picking kids up after school or providing a “bridge” between the time the kids get out of school and the time their parents get home. We have done all three.

Additional research would be required to find out the cause of the longer life expectancy of caregivers, however researchers present a few explanations. But I really don’t need some expensive research from some razzle dazzle organization to tell me just how good watching children makes me feel, how it lets me connect with my youth again.

How will you Live

How will you choose to live your life? This isn’t a trick question. I am asking if you have chosen to live your life fully or just exist day to day. Not being able to control your circumstances is exasperating but it doesn’t mean you are helpless.

In my opinion there are two types of time. One is when you sit around and wait until things happen to you. I think this is wasted time. The other is when you take control, when you make every second count, when you are learning, growing and improving. It’s your call.

Many years ago, I accepted a job at a textile company shortly before I was to be laid off from a job that I was working at. A job that I loved. A job where I learned quite a bit.  A job that I had devoted over ten years of my life to. They were downsizing the plant I was in because they had opened a new plant in Denver, Colorado that was built with all brand new equipment. I hated to leave but the writing was on the wall and I jumped at the chance to join this new company as a maintenance man.

The pay was less but the job came with a promise that I would receive periodic raises the longer I stayed there. I received a promotion to Maintenance Manager and a small raise. The job was great and I enjoyed working at what I thought was a “secure” business. I worked there nine months before they went bankrupt. I was devastated.

I took control of my life and cold called on some local businesses resume in hand. I was hired to repair the machinery and building at one of them. I ended up running thier second site and once again I was in control of my life. We had discussed a raise and I was told it was coming as soon as the paperwork was done. This was the same answer week after week.

Then one night I received a call from a millionaire in Toronto that had bought the textile company I had worked for, lock stock and barrel. He wanted me to run the place as the plant manager for more money. Most of the old employees came back and I hired a few friends that I knew were looking for a job. My second in command hired a woman who I later found out was his mistress. The two of them joined forces to undermine everything I was doing. This job turned out to be a disaster.

I grabbed the bull by the horns and started applying for every job I was qualified for (and a few I felt I could fake my way through) and was eventually hired as the maintenance manager in a food manufacturer. During the interview, the plant manager offered me complete autonomy in running the maintenance department.

This promise was quickly broken though when the owners came in and oversaw every decision I made. So I decided I would make the most of every moment I was there. I started my exit strategy hoping to be able to support my family by running my own business. They finally decided they could run the department without me and again I was blowing in the wind.

The most horrible thing in life is to have is a job that you dislike, one that stifles your creativity. This might make you uninspired, a person who does nothing more than the minimum necessary to ensure their job, a drone.  We have to choose to make use of every minute of our lives and yes, relaxing or spending time with your family or friends is good use of your time. We all need some down time to recharge and get ready for what comes next. We have to make a willful decision to live in the present. Carpe Diem.

I do not imply that you should quit your job immediately if you don’t love it. Spend the time choosing how to spend your days. Learn everything you can about the job and yourself. Fill every nonworking second in productive reading and research.

Life is constantly asking us, is this going to be productive time or wasted time? On a long commute do you zone out or listen to an audiobook or think about your future? When our flight is delayed, are we getting some exercise by walking around the terminal or stuffing your face eating a cinnamon roll?

There is plenty you can do to make this productive, purposeful time even if the situation is not completely in your control. Read a book. Write something. Make a phone call. Observe your surroundings. Learn something. Open yourself up to new ideas.

The future is not something that happens to you or is even guaranteed, it is something you make happen. People say that this moment does not define your life, but it is just a moment in your life. How will you use it?

Norb is a freelance writer from Lockport. His restaurant review website is https://lovinspoonful.my-free.website/

Hugs, they’re not for everyone.

There’s currently a Puritanical idea that has pervaded our culture in which touch and sex are inherently linked and it is doing us a great disservice. I think that people are afraid to touch each other no matter how platonic.

I will admit it, I’m a tactile person. I give and receive hugs every day. Touch is one of the ways I communicate. I’m also a shoulder patter, and a hand holder. Hugs are free and there is no purchase required.

We Americans are often “touch starved” because the casual, nonsexual contact that happens between friends in other cultures just doesn’t happen here. I think we were never meant to hold each other at arm’s length.

 According to Readers Digest, hugs are more than just a friendly greeting, they’re a surprisingly powerful health booster you’ll want to take greater advantage of every single day. From the time we’re born our family’s touch shows us that we’re loved and special. The connections of self-worth and tactile sensations we received in our early years are still implanted in our mind as adults. Hugs affect our ability to love ourselves.

Hugs are much more than a friendly greeting. Holding a hug for an extended time is said to lift one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness. Hugs supposedly strengthen the immune system. Hugging is reported to boost self-esteem.

Touch is incredibly important for us as human beings. Studies have shown that hugs can reduce blood pressure and release oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone that has been associated with empathy, trust, and relationship-building among other things.

A good hug relaxes muscles and releases tension. Hugs can help ease pain and soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.  Hugs teach the importance of giving and receiving. There is an equal value in receiving a hug as there is to giving one. Hugs show us how love goes both ways. As a loving person, I get an abundance of hugs from my family. I find that hugs are like a miracle drug.

A Swedish study of 172 nursing home residents found that those who received hugs and physical touch, connected more with family, friends and visitors, were more socially active and had a tendency to thrive better than the residents who didn’t receive the physical contact.

When you are in a relationship, it is too easy to take the other person for granted. A benefit of hugging that is frequently overlooked is that a hug can reaffirm your love. I think it’s valuable to know that something as simple as time spent touching or hugging has been shown to have measurable benefits.

I had a doctor who was very professional but unemotional. He was an excellent doctor that in my mind saved my life on more than one occasion. The first time he proclaimed that I was “In remission” I jumped up and gave him a big hug, I was so elated. It was like hugging a tree.

 In his culture, men did not hug. Over the course of several years and 2 remissions, I hugged him many times. Our relationship warmed so much that the last time I saw him, he initiated the hug. He also had a student with him on this particular day. He said to the student that he might as well hug me because I was going to hug him too.

A few years ago, I had a person report me to HR that I had hugged her. She was telling me about her horrible battle with cancer when I said “sounds like you need a hug”. I did not approach her or grab her, just stood and opened my arms. She then stepped forward to get her hug. She didn’t protest at the time or say “No thanks.” but seeing as I was in a position of superiority over her she didn’t think she could refuse.

 She taught me to always ask if people are comfortable with a hug or possibly even a warm handshake before assuming that they were. It was a boundary I needed to understand and something I needed to learn.

I now recognize that for lots of people, touch can be not only be something unfamiliar but has the ability to transmit aggression or dehumanizing and scary messages.  I mean nothing more by it when I offer you a hug other than make an effort to connect with you or to offer comfort to you, not to invade your space or make you feel uncomfortable.

So while I will continue to offer hugs to people who seem to welcome them. I will never foist them upon anyone. I will say though that if I see you crying, eating cold pizza and you explain your troubles to me and ask for advice, offering a hug to you seems as reasonable to me as offering you a tissue.

Hugging might also be a wonderful way to resolve a disagreement. I think that giving each other the touch they need may have the ability to reverse the damages.

To me, there doesn’t seem to be a downside to consensual hugging, I just have to ask first. Norb is a loving husband, father and grandfather who doles out hugs in Lockport.

Childhood vaccinations

Though vaccinations can prevent a number of childhood illnesses, some believe mandatory vaccination violates individual rights and can actually do more harm than good. Many people do not believe that they should be forced by law into getting their children vaccinated but many states do allow exemptions for moral and religious beliefs.  In my opinion, my right to not have my child infected with a communicable disease trumps your right to skip immunizing your child.

On 30 March 1967, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed Mumpsvax, The Mumpsvax vaccine was recommended for routine use in the US in 1977. The chickenpox vaccine first became commercially available in 1984.

Before the widespread use of the vaccine, measles was so common that infection was considered “as inevitable as death and taxes. In the United States, reported cases of measles fell from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands per year following introduction of the vaccine in 1963

As a child I had measles, chickenpox and mumps. It used to be common practice back then to expose your child to these diseases, so they would develop a natural immunity. There were no vaccines.

From January 1 to April 19, 2019, 626 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 22 states. This is the second-greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000, second only to the 667 cases reported during all of 2014. According to the Associated Press, over 1,200 people have died in Madagascar as a result of a measles epidemic dating to last year. By mid-March, 117,075 cases had been reported by the health ministry, affecting all regions of the country.

Serious side effects of vaccination appear to be no more common than those from other types of medication such as antibiotics, fever reducers and pain relievers. In my opinion, vaccines have helped children stay healthy for more than 50 years, they are safe and vaccinations work. Yet many parents still question their safety because of misinformation they’ve received. Just because it is on the internet doesn’t make it true. That’s why I think it’s important to turn to a reliable and trusted source, including your child’s doctor, for information. Most healthcare professionals believe in their effectiveness to prevent life threatening illnesses.

Most childhood diseases are rarer due to vaccines according to what I’ve read and if they are not given, the bacteria and viruses that cause these diseases could begin to infect more and more children. In the United States vaccines protect children from many diseases but in many parts of the world vaccine preventable diseases are still quite common. Because these diseases may be brought into the United States by Americans who travel abroad or by immigrants, it’s important for your child to be vaccinated.

 A highly weakened strain of the Rubella virus is given as a vaccination to guard against the disease commonly called Measles or German Measles. Many studies have shown that this immunity lasts at least 15 years while a natural immunity created from actually contracting the disease will last a lifetime.

According to the CDC, Chickenpox is a very contagious disease.  The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine. Without being vaccinated and contracting Chicken Pox could cause shingles in later life.

Mumps vaccine is also created from an extremely weakened strain of the mumps virus. The mumps virus is self-limiting and will provide a lifetime immunity if contracted. The duration of the vaccine protection is unknown, however it has been shown to last at least 12 years.

According to a report by researchers at the Pediatric Academic Society, childhood vaccinations in the U.S. prevent about 10.5 million cases of infectious illness and 33,000 deaths per year. Vaccines have reduced and in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. Your children don’t have to get smallpox shots anymore because the disease was eradicated decades ago and currently there is no evidence of naturally occurring smallpox transmission anywhere in the world. However, small quantities of smallpox virus officially still exist in research laboratories in Atlanta, Georgia, and in Russia.  

Polio has almost been eliminated but according to the world health organization two countries in the world have never stopped the transmission of Polio (Pakistan and Afghanistan). As long as a single child remains infected with poliovirus, children in all countries are at risk of contracting the disease.

It is natural to want to understand the potential risks of vaccination, especially when the benefits are invisible, but you’ll never know how many times your child is exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease and makes use of their vaccine-induced immunity. Vaccination is not just a personal choice either. The “vaccinated community” where everyone possible in a community has been vaccinated against a disease helps to protect those who are not able to be vaccinated. These include children too young to receive vaccines and those Individuals with weakened immune systems. 

I believe it is a good idea to have children vaccinated against childhood diseases. This helps protect only you but your family, friends, and neighbors

I am not a medical professional and don’t even play one on television, however I do a lot of research and tries to reach informed opinions. One of these topics he has researched is childhood vaccinations.

Robocalls

I’m in the bathroom, the phone rings and my wife is out picking up grandchildren from school. I open the door, run across the bedroom and grab the phone and blurt out, “Hello”? A voice answers, “This is Linda with Master Card/Discover credit card services …”

I’m driving in my car and my phone rings. I think it might be important so I pull over and find my phone. I press answer and hold it to my ear, “Hello?” I say. “Hi, this is Tony” says the voice on the other end, “with an important message about your credit …”

I’m in my recliner taking a nap when I am jarred awake by my phone ringing. The number on my caller I.D. is a local exchange so I figure it’s someone I know. I don’t recognize the number but I haven’t memorized everyone’s phone number. I say hello and a voice on the other end states “This is the IRS. You have a judgment against you, and you have three days to reply or face penalties or possibly imprisonment …”

Welcome to 2019. With number spoofing, the phone is now a weapon of deception. A study by the Federal Communications Commission projects that almost half of the cell calls that will be received this year are going to be spam. These junk calls with their uninvited robot-voices are designed to get your money or information. The governments “do not call list” isn’t helping. There is no reason to tell them not to call again either. They just spoof another number and call again.

It has gotten so bad that I carry both my cell phone and my cordless phone with me when I am home. I have to do this because the provider of my chemo drug will call me to schedule my monthly delivery and I don’t want to miss their call.

Just how did it come to this? Time was, a ringing phone indicated that someone I knew wanted to talk with me. Why else would they have my phone number? Sure I got a few prank phone calls, with a last name like Rug I expected them, but I didn’t get them very often.

Today though, it’s not even a person calling you anymore. It’s a computer program that can dial hundreds of people an hour. I am constantly called by telemarketers, credit card people, and political campaigns. They all combine to annoy me with unwanted calls and that doesn’t include all the scams, frauds and illegal schemes that stay just one step ahead of the overworked regulation agencies.

This field has grown so much that the scam artists can now create a spoofed number that looks like someone you might know or impersonates a business person that you might know.

According to a CNN article, “A scammer could call you from what looks to be a familiar number and talk to you using a voice that sounds exactly like your bank teller, saying they’ve found suspicious activity on your account. You’re then tricked into ‘confirming’ your mother’s maiden name, your address, your card number and PIN number.”

This is terrific, one more thing for me to worry about besides stolen passwords, identity theft, and credit card fraud and fake news.

I signed up for the “Do Not Call Registry” and thought that this would stop these calls. Silly me. The Do Not Call Registry is a big joke today, useless against robocalls and offshore individuals that laugh at this attempt to reduce the “garbage calls” as we call them. While writing this article I received three robocalls that interrupted me.

An FCC report stated that progress was being made but another report indicated that robocalls were up 57 percent in 2018 from 2017. An increase of 57 percent doesn’t sound like much progress to me.

The FCC is now requiring that the phone companies implement a technology called SHAKEN/STIR. This makes sure that the number you see on your phone is a real number and not a “spoofed” one.  I am sure that by the time this technology is put into service by the phone carriers that there will be a new scam. I know from my days picking locks and hacking that anything that was built by a man can be defeated by a man.

All of this has made people disregard phone calls altogether, checking the display, frowning in disgust and refusing to answer. This is not a great solution though. Say, you’re on your way home after work. It’s a Friday night and your cell phone rings. You look at the number and it doesn’t look like anyone you know so you press ignore.

The next day, your best friend calls. “Hey, you won’t believe this. Someone gave me four court side tickets to the game last night. I tried calling you on Bill’s phone, but you didn’t answer. It was awesome! Sorry you missed it.”

Alexander Graham Bell is in heaven looking at this and thinking, “What the heck happened?” And then, his heavenly phone rings and he hears a voice that says, “This is the IRS. We are calling to inform you that an arrest warrant has been issued in your name …”

Norb is an independent journalist from Lockport. Previously published in the Niagara Gazette.

Jury Duty

close up court courthouse hammer
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s a small piece of paper, usually the size of a postcard and it is easily hidden between the junk mail and the bills that crowd a mailbox, but it manages to create fear in many of its recipients. It is the jury duty summons. Jury duty is regarded as vital to the administration of justice and, as such, is considered a condition of U.S. citizenship.

Some people start trying to think up things to say that will guarantee they will get rejected as soon as they receive this notice. “The police never arrest innocent people”, “I’ve never met a government official that I trust!” and “I have no problem with (insert racial slur here). Others are reconciled to the fact that jury duty is just part of life for most U.S. citizens, age 18 or over. But serving on a jury is something that you should take graciously. I served on a jury once and I felt honored to serve.

There are a number of reasons why people hate jury duty. It can be a pain to get to the courthouse, find parking, go through the metal detectors, then wait, wondering when or even if you’re going to be called. I had never been on a jury so I had no idea what to expect and after the judge dismissed those with hardships, the rest of us were told to return the next day.

The day of the jury selection I showed up and was shown a seat in the court room. When my name was called, I went up and was questioned by both the prosecution and the defense lawyers. I was selected to serve and was assigned the job of jury foreman.

When we went back is when the real fun began. The judge told us not to feel bad if we weren’t selected. He explained that some people are just a better fit for certain cases. By this point, I was still just sitting there, in the audience area, questioning whether I would have a chance to serve.

We were chosen at random to go and answer several questions about our work, families, drinking habits and any brushes with the law. We were told this case involved driving under the influence. People were told had to answer truthfully and asked if they felt that they could treat the defendant fairly.

Right about then I was called. Some of the more outrageous people had been dismissed and it was my turn. I made it as the last member of the panel, and after two alternates were chosen. We went home and the following day we listened to the jury instructions and jumped into the trial.

The case we heard, a person said they had spent 5 hours in a bar and had “Two beers”. Upon leaving the bar, he then drove to Transit road, made a right turn and proceeded to swerve down the wrong lane of Transit for better than a quarter mile attempting to get his car under control before hitting another driver.

Just prior to the start of the trial, a lady came into the courtroom. She was on crutches because she had a broken leg. She took the witness stand and told the story of how she was headed north on Transit and saw him coming She said she moved as far right as she could and stopped her car to try and avoid an accident. Unfortunately, the suspect hit her head on while she was stoped there. She had to be extracted from her car by the Fire Department and the EMTs.

We heard testimony from the Lockport Police officer who was the first to arrive on the scene The police officer testified he used the standard field sobriety tests and determined the defendant was drunk.

It was hard not to discuss the case with my fellow jurors before deliberations. At night, when I went home, I thought about the trial, the defendant’s testimony, and the defense lawyer’s explanations for things. It was hard, especially since I couldn’t talk to anyone.

Once we started deliberations, it felt weird to suddenly to be allowed to discuss the case. To my relief there were no arguments and while presenting our thoughts, everyone stayed respectful.

We carefully looked over the evidence in the jury room and even asked the court reporter to come in so she could read back the testimony. We had one hold out but we managed to change her mind. I was proud and honestly amazed that this group of 12 strangers coming from completely diverse backgrounds would come up with a consensus.

We filed into the courtroom one last time and the defendant, his lawyer and the prosecutor stood up as we walked in. I read the verdict and the judge thanked us for our service and then we were done.

When you sit on a jury, you have someone else’s fate in your hands. That’s a mindboggling obligation and one I think gets forgotten by people trying to get out of serving. I thought about this the entire time. This duty shouldn’t be taken lightly and it shouldn’t be something to try and get out of

Being on a jury is an absolutely rewarding experience. When it was over, I felt like I had made a difference and that I was a part of something bigger.

Norb is a freelance journalist from Lockport.