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The guiDE program provides DukeEngage alumni a pathway to continue their commitment to service and civic engagement by providing leadership, mentorship and service opportunities that support wider DukeEngage efforts on campus and beyond.




DukeEngage Partner Organization: Center for Death Penalty Litigation

Major: Biology

Contact Selin:

Selin Ocal is a Junior pursuing a major in Biology and a minor in History. With a passion for both health science and social justice, she was particularly interested in partaking in an experience that would allow her to explore an area where the two overlapped. For this reason, Selin formulated an independent project where she would get the chance to explore health quality and access to care in prisons. By choosing to work with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation located in downtown Durham, Selin became the first Duke student to partake in a local independent project. Her experiences from that summer have now solidified her desires to not only pursue medicine, but to also incorporate non-profit service work into that career and to maintain a particular focus on the incarcerated population, who face unique health risks and limitations due to involvement with the criminal justice system.

Resource Guide

Following her summer working with Center for Death Penalty Litigation, Selin developed the following list of resources for students who are interested a similar independent project.

Leading up to my DukeEngage experience, I asked my faculty advisor for articles/books that would be useful to read before starting. He recommended to me “Potential Savings from Abolition of the Death Penalty in North Carolina” which he wrote and had published himself, in addition to other works of scholars in the field. I also digested many different factual and historical articles from the Death Penalty Information Center website, and read books like “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, and “Are Prisons Obsolete” by Angela Davis.


The Staircase” is a Netflix documentary series focusing on an infamous criminal case that occurred in Durham only a few years ago – these episodes provide a good background on how criminal defense work looks procedurally and also get to look at how the system operates on the level of the city itself. The TED talk “We Are all Criminals” by Emily Baxter is also interesting in helping to understand just how ubiquitous crime is, and how much our appearance can affect our chances of facing more severe consequences for our actions.

My Duke independent project was in Durham, so firstly I would name the organization, which is the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. Next I would suggest the Monti – a storytelling organization that has worked with those on death row before. Or I would suggest the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (Durham office).