Summer at the American Civil Liberties Union

My first few days at my internship has given me a window into the way the legal system can be used to further social justice issues.

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU), founded in 1920, is a nationwide, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with more than 500,000 members dedicated to the principles of liberty and equality embodied in the U.S. Constitution.  Through its affiliates, members, and national staff, the ACLU has a presence in every state across the country.  Each affiliate works with its state’s legislature and policymakers to further the protection and advancement of civil liberties. This summer I am working in the Advocacy and Policy side of the organization, located in their national office in New York City. The Advocacy and Policy staff partner with ACLU affiliates and National Chapters throughout the country to protect civil liberties by developing effective advocacy strategies at the state level. The Advocacy and Policy team is part of an interdisciplinary team that develops state-based legislative and public policy campaigns in ACLU priority issue areas.

aclu photo
The entry to the largest conference room. Next week we will meet the Director of the ACLU in this room.

As an intern in the Advocacy and Policy department, I will be supervised by an advocacy and policy counsel and will be part of a multi-issue team. My particular focus will be mass incarceration, under the ACLU Smart and Fair Campaign to End Mass Incarceration, which seeks to dramatically reduce incarceration and criminalization, particularly of communities of color, over the next 10 years. My supervisor is an expert in policy reform and specifically in criminal justice reform. Over the course of the summer, I will research and write on a number of matters relating to state-based advocacy to achieve the goals of the campaign. Over the first few days I have begun to look at the economic effect prisons have on rural communities—an interesting area that is not often fully explored in conversations about mass incarceration.

The work I’m doing is highly pragmatic and dynamic. In order to achieve its goal of significantly reducing mass incarceration in the next 10 years, the ACLU is weighing a variety of strategies, ranging from which states and polices should be targeted to which messaging strategies are the most effective.
My first few days, I have learned so much about the ways in which social justice can be achieved through strategic action, may it be through policy, litigation or a combination of the two.

My morning commute.
My morning commute.

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