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Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center Entrance at 326 E Main Street

As I was born into a family of two attorneys and a paralegal, it was no shock to anybody who knows me when I, like so many freshmen who barely survived organic chemistry, decided to drop the pre-med track and set my intention to become a lawyer. From freshman spring to sophomore fall, I transitioned from Biology and Global Health to Biology and African and African American Studies, and I began working on restorative justice initiatives on campus.

Being a doctor made sense to me in an objective way. I loved and excelled in science, and medicine provided an excellent opportunity to help marginalized communities. But working in civil rights law with those affected by the criminal justice system actually feels like (pardon the cliché) my calling. As a naturally argumentative person whose first word was “no,” fighting a deeply biased and thoroughly entrenched system that refuses to be abolished is most appropriate for me. I hope to work to free wrongfully incarcerated people after law school, this summer I’ll be focusing on what happens when incarcerated people reach the end of their sentences.

I am privileged to be working on the Reentry programming at the Criminal Justice Resource Center in Durham County this summer. My work will center around researching the reentry programs of similar cities, and making suggestions based on their efficacy.

When we think of crime victims, we often think of the innocent who are harmed by “criminals” who are then incarcerated. Those who are favored in the criminal justice system (namely, wealthy white people) are rarely forced to think of the criminal justice system as a “criminal” itself. We have long known, and are especially aware now, that police, jails, and prisons cause immense harm. While we work to abolish these systems that cause harm, we must try to remedy the harm caused, and that is what makes reentry programming so important.

As a white AAAS student and an RJ ambassador, it is essential that I not only learn about anti-Black policing and mass incarceration in the classroom, but that I face the problem head-on and learn from experts in the field. Working with the CJRC affords me this opportunity, and I am starting this summer with an open heart and willing hands.