2016 Week Five: Criminal Justice
When I am out petitioning for an Affordable Housing Trust Fund in the Baltimore city budget, I usually get one of three responses. Either they completely ignore me (which doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would), they quickly sign and move on, or we talk, sometimes for a LONG time, about the issue. This is probably my favorite part of being outside, in the heat, asking people to sign onto this effort. I never thought I would enjoy petitioning and engaging strangers in conversation on an important issue as much as I do, but I definitely think I’ve found a place where I thrive, where I am able to actively work toward a concrete goal while also learning so much about where people stand on this issue. Whether they completely disagree with me or are on my side and work in a similar field, each conversation teaches me so much about how other people think about the right to affordable housing in the vastly different perspectives that I encounter. Petitioning has become the perfect complement to sitting in an office and doing research, which is also valuable, but doesn’t have the same type of gratification I get when I am outside, engaging with people about such a fundamentally important issue.
I always felt strange when a person talked about feeling “connected to the city.” I never understood, and still do not understand, how one person can possibly feel connected to the thousands of others living in a city, all with unique experiences, culture, languages, and hardships. I have never felt connected to an entire city, even my hometown. However, I have felt connected to a community that I was a part of, such as my high school, a team, or a group of people. Considering this, I do not feel “connected’ to the city of Baltimore because I am not sure what being “connected to a city” means. How can you be connected to something so large? Perhaps over the course of the internship I can ponder this conundrum.
This has been one of my most exciting weeks at the Office of the Public Defender. I had the chance to work on multiple interesting projects throughout the week. I have written summaries of cases, mapped out and tracked important case evidence, and conducted preliminary case research into an ambiguous legal issue, among others. Each of these projects have contributed to my understanding of the legal profession, and I have had the chance to contribute to some formative service efforts. My case research, for example, may result in contributing to an effort to assist in providing a client drug treatment. I enjoy knowing that I can find academic fulfillment in legal research while being comforted by a product that will help our clients. In fact, what I enjoy most about my internship is how each attorney allows me to get into the weeds in every issue. I have been encouraged at every step to stop working on projects to read important or famous cases, to ask questions, and to take my time on projects so that I can make them my own. I cannot say I expected to do the projects I have been given. I knew I would be able to substantive legal work, but not at the level I have been given. I love feeling like a part of the legal process, even if it means wading into the minutia of a case. I look forward to future internships where I can make a similar effort to get wrapped up in each case or project that I work on. In doing so, I feel a stronger connection to the client and the client’s case.
Parents. Most of us take them for granted. They are the spring from which we’ve all sprung. The “The Hobbit” to our “Lord of the Rings.” (or the Silmarillion to our either of those I suppose). In any case, parents have immense influence on our lives, from genetics to determining environmental factors and how we handle relationships. I have never been so thankful for my parents, as flawed as they are, as any parents are, as I have been this summer. The incredible privilege of growing up in a stable home is in no way an isolated privilege. It is the confluence of many privileges, economic, social and otherwise. Regardless, I only began to realize how lucky I am by observing the challenges children face in less stable homes. Some of our clients literally have nowhere to go if they are not placed by either the Department of Juvenile Services or the Department of Social Services. Either these clients have lost a parent, or their parents are either unwilling or unable to care for them. The need is especially acute if they fall in the 18 to 21 age range. At age 18, a parent is legally obligated to do very little for their child. At age 18, the Department of Social Services will no longer place someone in a foster home. Our clients will be effectively homeless if they take this route, referred to a shelter of some kind. Alternatively a client can continue to participate in the programs prescribed for them by the Department of Juvenile Services, which can work towards independent living and job training skills. They are placed in the bizarre situation of having to accept the stigma and restriction DJS in order to avoid living on the streets. This systematic deficiency is one of many in our world, one of many in the justice system alone. As always, there is very little I can do to fix it.Tags: 2016, CIIP, CIIP 2016, Office of the Public Defender, Public Justice Center, Week Five