Although I haven’t officially started work at Florida Justice Institute (FJI) yet, I began to look forward to it even more after hearing from our guest speaker this week. He was an attorney from FJI and discussed some of the cases that they’ve worked on in great detail. One that he mentioned which particularly stuck with me after the talk was a disability rights case, where prisoners with disabilities were not being properly accommodated. Some of the stories truly shocked me, such as when he recalled one incarcerated person’s story about how his wheelchair broke, but he was not provided with a replacement. He then had no way of getting around on his own, even to places like the bathroom, and he was confined to his bunk all day long. Our speaker told other accounts of people who were deaf not being able to hear when they were called in to go to medical appointments. There was no one assigned to help notify them, and so the guards assumed that they simply weren’t coming. Essentially, these people missed their valuable medical appointments for the sole reason of not being able to hear when they were called.
I was absolutely dumbfounded when hearing these stories, and it made me think about how so many aspects of and issues within the criminal justice system are simply not brought up in our society. Once people are branded as criminals, they just get thrown into the system and are often forgotten about by the majority of their fellow citizens. Out of sight and out of mind. Not only did these stories utterly enrage me, but they got me even more excited to begin working on issues such as these when I start my work next week at FJI. While I don’t expect that these issues will go away or stop enraging me within the next 8 weeks of my internship, I do hope that I will begin to feel as though I can play some small role in working towards some of their resolutions.