After working within the legal world last year, I knew I wanted to do it again. As a court advocate, I got to be there for families and friends of homicide victims helping them to navigate through the judicial system. This work caring for survivors and witnesses of crime was one I began to realize was as important as justice being served by judges and lawyers of the criminal justice system. This year I decided that being a court advocate would be an option again for me because I liked being an extra resource for families. This summer, I have the opportunity to work as an intern in two organizations, Northwest Victims Services ( NVS) and Pennsylvania Prison Society (PPS).
Northwest Victim Services (NVS) is an organization which strives to address cycle of violence within the community by “increasing awareness of crime prevention” strategies that could increase community safety of Philadelphia. The mission of NVS and my job as a courtroom advocate is to try support individuals impacted by crime by working alongside them empowering them to effectively navigate the criminal justice system, while fervently advocating for their rights. In detail this includes working directly with crime victims who attend preliminary hearings, keeping victims and witnesses of crime up to date on their cases, and advocating for their questions and their rights. As an intern for NVS, it is my responsibility to be a resource for victims and witnesses and offer as much information about counseling and finances possible to help ease their journeys through this difficult process.
Last summer, as a courtroom advocate, not only did I have the opportunity to work directly with survivors and witnesses of crime but also got to view the trial process from a preliminary hearing to sentencing. During this time, I watched many people get sentenced many thoughts and questions played in my head. I wondered what happened to those individuals once inside prisons, would they change on the inside, and finally questioned what would happen to an individual once they were freed. Although I worked for victims and witnesses, that did not mean could not feel for the defendants as well.
The second internship I secured sought to answer all of those questions. The Pennsylvania Prison Society (PPS) is a non profit organization founded in 1787 which seeks to advocate for a humane, just, and restorative correctional system. In short they advocate that “ justice and compassion shouldn’t be exclusive.” PPS firmly believes that constructive corrections will help to repair the cycle of violence within our communities. In order to provide a more humane just and restorative correctional system PPS as an organization provides everything from transportation for family and friend visitations, Graterfriends, a newspaper made and read by inmates, mentoring for recent returning citizens, and an Official Visitors network. The Prison Society’s Official Visitors network is a statewide network of volunteer advocates monitoring prison conditions and treatments to address issues and concerns raised by either inmates or their family and friends.My job as an intern so far is to help strengthen the Official Visitor program by contacting visitors across the state to find out what works for them and how to improve the program.
I love both of my jobs because they give me the opportunity to see everyone as humans and people first. It allows me to see the victims witnesses and their families as people that are impacted and sometimes forever changed by an incident. On the other hand, it also allows me to see that defendants and inmates are people that made decisions that impacted their lives forever, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be treated with compassion or deserve a chance return to society a full citizen.Although seemingly opposing, the work done by both organizations complement one another because by recognizing, treating with dignity and protecting the rights of both the victim and the perpetrator we decrease cycle of violence in our community as a whole.