12 Weeks, 2 Exonerations: Finishing the Summer at CIC

I have completed my twelve weeks at the Chicago Innocence Center and it has been a truly enlightening summer. Coming into my internship, I had three goals: to apply sociological theories I learned to real-world situations, to gain experience in both legal and social work strategies to determine a graduate course of study, and to develop a stronger personal confidence in and outside of professional settings.

In weekly seminar meetings, I was able to bring my sociological lens to our brainstorm sessions. When looking over case materials, I was able to analyze information using my sociology background. I learned a lot about applying the study of social institutions and how they intersect in the real world. For my second goal, I amended it to allow me to investigate legal and journalism careers to see if I want to pursue these paths in graduate school. While I did love learning about investigative journalism and I think my experience at CIC made me a better writer, I am not interested in pursuing an advanced degree in journalism at this time. I am still open to the idea of attending law school or pursuing a master’s degree in social work in the future. In terms of my larger career goals, at CIC I noticed like being in an organizational role. I work best when I am a leader on a team and able to organize a project and create structure for others. I can see this translating into a role in non-profit management in the future.

The Summer 2016 interns with exonerees Mark Clements, Stanley Wrice, and Timmy Donald.
The Summer 2016 interns with exonerees Mark Clements, Stanley Wrice, and Timmy Donald.

My third goal was to gain more personal confidence. Working with CIC made me a more confident person. My supervisor, Pam Cytrynbaum, was a role model to me. She was strong, fierce, and did not apologize for herself. As someone who has struggled with insecurities in the past, it was so empowering to see a strong woman successfully running an entire organization. Pam taught me to stop apologizing for myself and always stand up for my opinions, even if it meant contradicting the boss. I feel much more confident entering the new school year and I know I will continue to thrive professionally as a strong woman with valuable ideas.

Myself and my fellow interns outside court after we witnessed an exoneration. All smiles!
Myself and my fellow interns outside court after we witnessed an exoneration. All smiles!

If I had one piece of advice to a future intern at CIC, I would let them know to have patience. Every case we work on takes time. Sometimes, when you think you reach a breakthrough, it might fall through or not pan out. It’s really hard to keep yourself motivated, especially when you realize the cases you’re working on have real people’s lives at stake. However, it is crucial to keep going, because your work could mean the difference in whether an exoneree is freed. If I was advising someone working in the field of innocence relief I would urge them to respect each exoneree. I would tell them to try not to treat anyone differently just because they were in prison. Even though exonerees live through a lifetime of pain while incarcerated, they are still people and want to be treated as such. They deserve all your respect and love as a human being.

This summer, I am most proud of my growth in confidence. I went from being very insecure in the workplace to freely sharing my ideas. In building a new website with some fellow interns, we were able to make new suggestions to our supervisors that were our own ideas. Many of these ideas made it on to the final site. Because I grew enough confidence to present an idea to my superiors, I have now made permanent, positive change for CIC as my ideas come to fruition on our new website. I will value the incredible skills I learned at CIC.

 

 

Ruby Macsai-Goren ’18

Social Justice WOW Fellow

1 thought on “12 Weeks, 2 Exonerations: Finishing the Summer at CIC”

  1. I love this post, Ruby. I think that confidence is a great goal to have. Confidence was not a goal of mine at the beginning of the summer, but looking back, I definitely am more confident in the workplace as well, which is important. I can also apply your advice about respecting each exoneree to my work with refugees. I created great relationships with the people I worked with through respecting them and getting to know them as people. Refugees face many challenges in America, like exonerees, and although the challenges are different, both groups deserve love and respect. Refugees are human beings who are escaping persecution and building a new life for themselves. In some ways I think being an exoneree is more difficult, as refugees have no record of a life in America and are here to start new, while exonerees have to live through the pain of a wrongful conviction. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for exonerees to readjust to life outside of prison. Refugees get $428 a month for the first eight months they are here, and while I don’t know of any financial support for exonerees, I’m sure it wouldn’t be that much. When applying for jobs, I’m sure many employers are still hesitant to hire exonerees. Even without a record, there are gaps in employment and lost of time to gain skills and experience. Your organization does great work, Ruby, and it seems like you played a valuable role this summer.

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