MATTHEW BROWN - BALTIMORE CITY HARM REDUCTION COALITION, WEEK 1
Having been a bit saddened by the fact that I could not work at the Needle Exchange this summer, I was excited to hear that there were still partners in Baltimore that conducted similar work to the Needle Exchange albeit in policy and classroom training. Even though this is my second year of CIIP, I was still rather nervous going into my first day of work. My nervous was augmented by two pervading thoughts a) I was working with a new partner for CIIP which meant I had to make a good impression and b) the organization I was working with only had one full time employee. This cocktail for trouble led me to be anxious as I approached 1106 North Charles Street at 10am. I saw my boss , Mark, looking cool, calm, and collected as he sat on the steps waiting for my arrival. I was taken aback by how organized he was and how his genuine enthusiasm around educating people in Baltimore about different health issues showed through our conversation. He immediately expressed gratitude for being able to have a full time intern as his organization, as organized as it is, definitely could use the help. I was able to watch him train people in helping someone who is overdosing and was surprised by how quickly he asked for me feedback. Once I gave it to him, and I was rather critical, I was impressed by how many notes he took on it and how he wanted to start to implement the critiques that I had given him as soon as possible into his next training. I was also fortunate enough to meet other members of the coalition: Octavia and Carrie. Both women were extremely sweet but it was the very blunt and no bones about it attitude conversation that I had with Carrie that really made me treasure this week. Carrie was showing me how to data analysis for BSHRC. During this time, she talked to em about being an aspiring premed, graduate school, and life in general. Carrie, who has PhD from Bloomberg, did not know me at all yet chatted with me like we had been friends who hadn't seen each other in ages and had to play catch up. The three hours I spent with her on that Thursday taught me so much about myself, Baltimore, and my career goals in general. She's leaving for California next week but she told me to keep in touch and tell her how my medical school goals end up. Its moment's like that that I value the most. When I can connect to someone I have never met before so quickly yet feel like I have gained so much, I thank the CIIP program for allowing me to take part in such experiences.
RYAN KELLNER - THE OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER, WEEK
This week helped me rediscover a passion for the law. I have always found myself torn between fields of study and prospective careers, but working as an attorney in the criminal justice system has always sat at the back of my mind. This is my first internship in a legal office, and it only took a day to help me realize that this is the field I want to pursue. While I cannot say for sure the role I would play in the criminal justice system, it is clearly the sector that best suits my interests and abilities. Legal work itself is fascinating to me. After attending my first hearing earlier this week, I found myself interested even in the more semantic arguments made by attorneys. I am fortunate in that the attorneys in the Office of the Public Defender happily take my questions despite my relative ignorance; I am not, after all, fluent in “legalese.” This week has led me to ask, however, in what other forms of advocacy can I participate on the behalf of community members? This is a question I ask in consideration of the volunteer efforts I can make now, and the career path I want to follow. While working “on the ground” as an attorney would afford me a platform to advocate on behalf of individual community members, I wonder if I might better serve as a policy analyst or legislative assistant. It seems likely at this point that I will make an effort to attend law school and work in civil service, but I’m not quite sure what form that should take. That being said, I look forward to completing my time with the Public Defender, and working in other legal offices in the future. It is important to me that I learn about every side of the legal equation, but I am glad that I started with the Office of the Public Defender. I have the opportunity to speak with individuals quite passionate about reformative efforts in the criminal justice system every day, and their perspectives are those of experience and persistence. I would like the opportunity to speak with members of the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Baltimore City Police Department to understand both sides of the story as well. Effective criminal justice reform cannot occur without a discussion on both sides. I see this summer position as a medium for determining my place in the legal world, and for having these discussions with attorneys I meet on both sides. I have no doubt my internship will lead to intense debate, but I’m happy to take part. I feel, however, a renewed sense of purpose and energy as a result of entering the legal work again. I look forward to developing that sense of purpose throughout the summer.
OSIRIS MANCERA - THE FREESTATE LEGAL, WEEK 1
The second I walked in I knew it wouldn’t be a cookie cutter internship. Bodies were moving to and fro, stacks of papers shuffled and stacked, shredded, and printed. The beeping was distinct and rhythmic. I could feel the sweat beginning to gather above my hairline as I hoped the A/C would turn on to keep it from dripping down my forehead. I hear lawyers are like sharks- they both smell fear.
It was an unnaturally and, sadly, tragically hectic week in light of the Sunday shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The night when so many lives ended and so many families were turned upside down. It was a night that sent cold sweat running down my spine and dryness in my throat because I live in a nation where I, and anyone I love and care about, can be killed at the blink of an eye. It’s scary how easy it is to lose your life at the hands of those who don’t know the value of it.
But this is not about the shooting. It is not about it and everything about it all at once. Patrick, the Executive Director at FreeState Legal, whose slicked back hair and tailored suit gave the impression of a distant and cold man, instantly gained my trust. He spoke so kindly and was genuinely concerned about everyone’s state. He’s on top of his game, running around to give interviews and be on the radio while keeping me up to date and ensuring I wasn’t “bored.” I can’t believe he even thought about me in this crisis. But I feel at home here. I felt comfortable. On Tuesday morning (my second day) I had to remind people what the computer password was and had to direct clients into the offices. It was as if though I’d been working here all my life and the swift wave of my arm and bright smile on my face was the most natural thing in the world to me. I’ve found a rhythm, a rhythm I didn’t expect until my 2nd, maybe even 3rd week of working here. But I’ve got it. Now I’m considering how to decorate my cubicle. I’ll probably pin up by “Power to Women” poster I won at the Mas-QUEER-Ade raffle. That’ll be something to look at!
But coming in, my biggest fear was being useless. When warm-faced tech-savvy Jer was setting up the computer for me, I didn’t even know what a backslash was. What a way to start an internship. I have much to do to earn back his respect. Backslack – oh my word! Now my biggest fear is wasting time due to miscommunications. It turned out I researched 74 POTENTIAL sponsors for the FreeState/ Equality MD merger instead of the actual 17 and then had to delete the information I found on about 50 of them. No worries though! They say I’m “exploited labor” – gosh, I really hope that’s true.
It’s nice to be able to reflect on these moments because otherwise I don’t think I would be learning. I would probably just be upset and frustrated. I don’t think I want to be a lawyer.
Grant Welby - the Office of the Public Defender, Week 1
"In an ideal world, I don't have a job. In an ideal world there is no juvenile crime." These words, spoken by my boss, Mark Friedenthal, partnered with the incredible and saddening things I've seen this week, have reinforced the fact that we do not live in an ideal world. Children commit crimes, sometimes because of poor homes life, sometimes because of mental illness, and all too often those two are intertwined. I came into work on my first day with an idea of how I thought justice should work, and by the second day this notion had already been radically altered. In the space of five days I've seen parents be unspeakably cruel to their children, I've seen children lie to their attorney, and I've transcribed in painstaking detail a testimony of the most heartrending nature. The end of my first week at the office has left me humbled and excited at the same time. It's changed the way I view the city around me, because you can never know a place without knowing the people and their struggles. I am far from full comprehension, and I suspect that no one has ever achieved that much.
Going in to my placement I was uncertain about how I would fit into a professional environment, having never worked in an office before. After the first week these fears have largely subsided. To some extent I am still watching myself to make sure I behave professionally and do not commit any workplace faux pas, but largely because I believe the work I am doing is important. In some small way I am contributing to a juvenile's defense, which might keep them out of detention, and has the chance to truly benefit their life. When you are focused, those worries about minor faux pas fade more into the background, still present but no longer pressing. The content of my work is far more important then whether my tie is crooked, or the first line of an email.