Since starting this internship, I have found myself multiple times struggling to explain what exactly I am doing.
The short answer; I am reviewing documents with and for attorneys at the Public Defender’s office in Detroit. The long answer, I am working on an entire-office effort against the state to release hundreds of men (and women) from prisons who have been incarcerated, in many cases, for at least 20 years. These men and women committed crimes before the age of 18, in some cases before the age of 16, that were decided to be so unforgiveable, and the children to incorrigible, that they would have to spend the rest of their lives behind bars, in a prison, and separated from the rest of society.
It is around this time when explaining what my internship is gets a little messy. Friends and family, professors and peers, have asked me why I feel passionate about advocating for people who have done horrific things.
And really, this is a valid question. It is not entirely easy to understand (or explain for that matter) why I feel compelled to work on behalf of men and women who have killed someone else.
It’s not at easy topic to talk about and explain, and surely not easy to understand; it would take an entire book for me to put a dent in explaining why I feel drawn towards this area. But if there is anything that I have learned after reviewing thousands of pages of documents, it is that I feel even more compelled to continue working in this field. I have most definitely read horrifying account and testimonies, things that have left me in tears and feeling like the only thing I can do is pray.
On the other hand, though, I have read just as difficult stories about what went into a young mans first sixteen or eighteen years that brought him to the point of committing a horrible act. I have wondered how our world has gotten to such a bad point, how else I would have reacted in a similar situation, and wondered if anyone was around to notice how horribly wrong things were in a child’s life.
Like I said, this is surely not an easy or comfortable topic to explain and be open about. But these are the things I wish I could say when someone asks me why I do what I do; because not only do people need punishment when they commit a horrible act, but they also need guidance, need mercy, and need the opportunity to make things better.
I understand that this is a very political topic, and I could explain until I run out of words and people would still disagree with me. But any sort of feedback would be greatly appreciated. I would love to hear others thoughts on the topic.