CRIMINAL JUSTICE

HANA CLEMENS - PUBLIC JUSTICE CENTER, WEEK 2

 

This week I definitely became more acclimated to the work environment at PJC. I am beginning to have more projects, and I feel as though I am learning a lot. The biggest learning curve for me has been learning all of the legal terms within landlord-tenant law. This week, I began doing client intakes all on my own, which basically means calling people who have issues with their landlord and asking them questions. This part has been difficult for me, because I am often unsure of the right questions to ask. Once I speak to an attorney about the issue I am then able to give the client legal advise. This part has been especially cool, because it is awesome giving them options in a situation where they felt helpless. I have learned how important it is for all people, especially those of low socio-economic status, to know their rights as a way to empower them when faced with sticky situations. Overall, this week was incredibly valuable in helping me see how I can be a part of reform in the often corrupt Baltimore housing system.

 

ANNETTE FAVETTA - OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER , WEEK 2

Heels clanking on the floor, a cacophony of voices mixing into inaudible conversations, and brightly colored pamphlets lying on tablecloths fill the lobbies and hallways of the Department of Juvenile Services. Today, I experience a different side to being an attorney that most people do not associate with work of a lawyer. At this Resource Fair, my task was to compile brochures and information from all the organizations that would provide any relevant service to current and potential clients. It was not a difficult task. However, I was amazed by the sheer number of organization that were present, who wanted to help young adults become set on a new path. These services range anywhere from substance abuse treatment, free job training, and even psychiatric service. Talking to the vendors and founders of these organizations, many of them run by a scarce amount of people, reminds me that, although there are forces in society that are negative, there are also many forces of good.

 

RYAN KELLNER - OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER , WEEK 2

 

I spent a fair amount of time this week in courtrooms and the Baltimore City Detention Center. I find it difficult to enter either without later reflecting on reform efforts that might improve the two. Entering a jail is always a disquieting experience for me. I gain a powerful sense of fulfillment knowing that I am working to assist individuals searching for a second chance during their incarceration. That sense of fulfillment, however, is often trumped by the feeling of intimidation created by working within the confines of a building as colossal as BCDC. It is that sense of intimidation that motivates me to return to incarcerated populations. I maintain a firm belief in the importance of constructive programs for inmates, such as tutoring for GED exams or career preparation. I pursue these efforts on my own as a tutor in BCDC. The reason I chose to work with CIIP and the Public Defender’s Office was to enhance my understanding of the legal processes that might affect these individuals in addition to some of the personal volunteer work I do on my own. The question I always end up settling on, then, is how to convince local and federal government officials of the importance of rehabilitative and constructive programs for incarcerated individuals. The climate seems ripe, especially in Baltimore, for criminal justice reform that allows those behind bars to work towards meaningful self-improvement and introspective reflection. Congress and local officials often champion the importance of changing the criminal justice system, but those on the inside see no progress. I would like to get more involved in the process of lobbying officials in Baltimore to enact changes that would benefit the men I have been working with since starting CIIP. Perhaps I could contact local officials to support rehabilitative programs for those in BCDC or other detainment facilities. Moreover, I could try to build larger bridges between Hopkins and local ex-offender advocacy groups. I have already had the chance to do so through the Hopkins Jail Tutorial Project, but I see the need for large-scale, systemically-focused advocacy. CIIP makes me think at a grander level for reformative efforts, and I would like to see Hopkins involve itself in a very concrete fashion in the city’s efforts to improve the lives of those incarcerated and those re-entering. Perhaps I could contact some of the attorneys with whom I work now after my internship is completed to involve themselves in this kind of advocacy work as well. My general feeling after my second week, however, is one of focus on future efforts. After Thursday’s ruling in the trial of Officer Goodson, many seem ready to discuss criminal justice reform at the systemic level. I hope to be a part of that effort.

 

OSIRIS MANCERA - FREESTATE LEGAL, WEEK 2

 

The blood from my face drained at the click of an email. As I was sitting down in my oh-so-comfy chair, I saw an e-mail pop up from Patrick “Call me ASAP.” What could it be? He never emails unless it’s him saying he’ll be late or has a meeting that morning. I thought through all of the mistakes I may have made over the last week, all of the miscommunications on my part, the stressful cringed faces Patrick has made, and all of the reasons he has to fire me. He could fire me, right? I just get a little anxious at any sign of change or surprise. It turns out he was calling to give me a big project, one that could change the face of the LGBTQ equality movement.
I do believe that my supervisor is gaining more confidence in me because he says he's surprised by how well I've accommodated to this environment. He (and other employees) was stupefied that I got so excited to purchase a Step & Repeat banner and write a press release because apparently not everyone gets excited about it!
The big project I mentioned earlier is kind of exciting now that I know what it is. I learned what presumptive parentage and remand mean! I was taken under the wing of our lead attorney Jer who is currently heading a big case being presented to the MD Court of Appeals called Conover v Conover (the court only sees about 50 cases a year) and I get to draft the press release for the ruling. We were kind of worried because I don't study law nor do I know anything about laws (a sad reality for many Americans) but I think it will work out and Patrick thinks it’s an advantage to not know what all of these words mean, because the purpose of press releases is to get the word out and I don’t know too many people who know what the word remand is. I got so excited about doing this that, during my lunch break, I watched an hour long video of the court case in April which was pretty awesome. It was interesting seeing a co-worker in action.
A main concern I had I was that I would be bored of doing administrative desk work, which I also do during the year and I was afraid that I wouldn't thrive in a similar setting, but I love it. I learned that I love doing this kind of work, maybe because I don't know technology at all and this is like a compelling game to me. Patrick has also been very accommodating in ensuring that I'm doing tasks that make me happy and that I thrive in. Incidentally, I have been helping with planning our event for next week by purchasing the banner, naming cocktails, being volunteer coordinator, etc., which is something that I wish to do as a career and I'm glad to do it here where it's a big deal.

GRANT WELBY - OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC DEFENDER, WEEK 2

Even so it is hard not to occasionally get disillusioned by the juvenile justice system at times. Despite the dedicated, impressive attorneys in my office, this week I've also seen failure in other departments, failure that has serious repercussions for the children that have to endure it. In many ways it is not surprising that many people do not trust the justice system. It must feel isolating and frightening, especially for juveniles, when supposedly responsible people fail in their duties and are not held accountable. If anything, this has reinforced the importance of lawyers in this system to me. One of the only people with the power to call out ineptitude and make it right is a lawyer. The only counter for an unethical or overzealous lawyer is a good lawyer. A lawyer can be the only lifeline someone has in an otherwise dehumanizing system. At the end of week two, I'm just grateful I can learn and be of service.