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Criminal justice reform is something that I have become very passionate about since my time attending Duke University. However, my interest in the criminal justice system is not one that began in the last three years. I have had an obsession with prison documentaries and murder cases since I was roughly 12 years old.  From a young age, I noticed the trend of unfair treatment of inmates and the seemingly high number of minorities incarcerated throughout these series, which led to independent research out of curiosity.  This curiosity has been further fostered at Duke where I have researched the effects of mass incarceration, the lack of rehabilitation provided to inmates, and the disproportionate effects the criminal justice system has on minorities, particularly in the Black community. Although, the more I educate myself on this topic, the more frustrated I become with how broken the criminal justice system truly is. 

This summer, I am working with the Criminal Justice Resource Center.  Throughout this project, I will be analyzing jail-based substance use treatment programs by researching their curriculum, outcome measures, and effectiveness in order to better equip Durham detention facilities. 

I initially applied for this project as a way to partake in bridging the gap between the Duke and Durham communities and to be a part of the Durham community taking steps towards amending the criminal justice system, one city at a time.  Unexpectedly, this work became especially pertinent in the midst of the current social justice protests and the focused discussion on providing justice to those wronged by the criminal justice system through police brutality, wrongful convictions, disproportionate arrests of Black Americans, etc.  While I was already excited to learn from a local organization about the efforts taken to address these inequalities, I am more eager than ever to support this movement by demanding racial equality and justice in all facets that I am able – starting with the substance use treatment program at CJRC.  

I was concerned that the remote aspect of DukeEngage this summer would make it difficult to make a strong connection with the Durham community outside of the CJRC. Although, as demonstrated through the recent protests and social media movement, connections can still be built with strangers from afar when a common mission is shared – the mission of ensuring human rights for everyone.