This summer, I will be interning at the Chicago Innocence Center in Chicago, IL. The Chicago Innocence Center (CIC) is a non-profit organization that uses an investigative journalism lens to find evidence towards exonerating wrongfully convicted prisoners. Unlike most Innocence Projects throughout the nation, CIC is not attached to a legal clinic or law school and instead sits at the intersection of law, journalism, and social work. Since 2011, this incredible organization has helped exonerate four wrongfully convicted individuals. Some of these individuals were in prison for thirty years or more. Some spent much of their time in prison in solitary confinement, which was detrimental to their psychological well-being. Many individuals experience police brutality leading to false confessions. Through CIC’s research, they are able to right the wrongs of the criminal justice system and find the truth in cases that have been ignored or lost in bureaucracy.
CIC strongly believes in independence, diversity, and community engagement. Their team of summer and year-round interns come from colleges all over the country and represent diversity in race, gender, hometown, and academic concentration. As one of the summer interns, I am so lucky to work with six other college students from schools all over the country. On my first day, I met my fellow interns, who are truly an incredible group of young people interested in social justice and positive systemic change in the criminal justice system. I am really looking forward to working together with the interns to help CIC with its mission. While the main CIC office is located directly in the heart of downtown Chicago, my work as a research intern will take me all over the city. In addition to working at CIC headquarters, I will travel to libraries, prisons, archives, and courthouses.
While my research will take many forms, I am starting by introducing myself to criminal law through text. Right now, I am reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, which discusses the mass incarceration of African Americans in the United States as well as The Death of Innocents by Sister Helen Prejean, which chronicles the Sister’s experience working with men on Death Row whom she believes to be innocent. These texts will give me an introduction to the flaws in our criminal justice system. Additionally, I am working on finding relevant events to attend that explore race, violence, the prison system, criminal and restorative justice, and community development. I look forward to networking with important leaders in the criminal justice reform community through attending workshops, speeches, and symposiums.
I am so excited to continue my work at the CIC in order to fulfill my goals for the summer. I hope to apply sociological theories I’ve learned in school to real-world situations, gain experience in both legal and social work strategies to determine if I want to pursue law or social work in post-baccalaureate studies, and develop a stronger personal confidence. I truly believe CIC will serve as a catalyst to help me achieve my goals and I am so honored and excited to continue to contribute to an amazing organization.