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For my first day working remotely at the Florida Justice Institute, I picked out the nicest of my three new t-shirts from Target (all of my normal clothes are still in my dorm at Duke) and brought a cup of coffee to my kitchen table. The timezone difference turns the mid-morning meetings into first-thing-in-the-morning meetings for me, another small but notable change to my summer experience. I don’t mean to complain; the opportunity to do my DukeEngage project online transformed my monotonous quarantine into a more manageable lifestyle. I have something to wake up and do everyday.

Those early morning meetings turned out to be blessings. Despite Florida’s notoriously packed beaches, Miami is still under the stay-at-home order. The whole office meets on Monday morning for a check-in. On Friday afternoons, everyone hops on Zoom for a casual lunch. The week holds many other small meetings where I have gotten to experience a lot of the camaraderie I would have in Miami.

Finding my stake in it all

This summer, I’m helping FJI on their solitary confinement case. Florida has the third largest prison population in the country, about 10% of which is in solitary confinement. I don’t live in Florida and don’t know anyone in solitary confinement. In fact, I don’t know that I can explain to you why I am doing this job over anyone else. These are questions I want to unpack alongside the people at FJI. I want to understand how they reconcile their own varying connections to the criminal justice system. Not every person will have an equal stake in social issues. Despite this, I believe there is some place for every level of experience in the effort to make our world less unjust.

Looking forward, I am excited to build connections and learn from the people around me. I have never worked in a professional environment before, so I have already learned so much in my first week. Despite my physical distance from Miami and the FJI office, I’m most excited to learn from the personal connections FJI has with each other and with the community in Miami.