Looking back at my first week at the Georgia Justice Project, the most surprising thing is how the general population largely overlooks the problems of our criminal justice system. At times I have admittedly been guilty of the same thing.
Over the nineteen years that I have called Atlanta my home I have come to consider myself well versed in the various quintessential aspects of the city. When I went off to college and then law school in far away states I was comforted by the knowledge that Atlanta was waiting for me, in many ways changing but always familiar. I was surprised to discover just last week that Atlanta has a whole other side, one previously unbeknownst to me.
While it is embarrassing to concede my ignorance, I must admit that I thought I was familiar with Atlanta’s problems; I knew about things like the drought and the staggering number of issues in the public school system. However, last week I was exposed to the failings of the city’s criminal justice system and the horrific impact it has on people’s lives.
I’d like to think I was somewhat aware of the problems in the criminal justice system before starting my internship at the Georgia Justice Project. After all, I took a freshman seminar called ‘Crime and Society,’ volunteered at a small prison in Pennsylvania, and had completed my first semester of Criminal Law, but never had the problems of criminal justice been painted in such sweeping strokes by people who are aware of the problems and are fighting for change.
I expected that the Georgia Justice Project would open my eyes to new experiences, but I somehow didn’t anticipate that it would change how I forever see my city.