Thursday, February 23, 2017

It wasn’t until I started my internship at Amicus that I realised my attitude to the death penalty used to be rather platitudinal. Indeed, my thought process was essentially limited to something along the lines of: “erm, hello, it’s obviously just a bad idea”. 

Rather unsurprisingly, this quickly changed early on in my internship as a result of two key events. The first was the orchestration of ‘Art for Amicus’: an exhibition and auction of artwork by death row inmates, which was our focus for about the first month of my internship. Reading about the prisoners-come-artists, seeing their work and writing to them humanised their stories. They were no longer a generic group of prisoners facing injustice, but individual people – each with their own hobbies (e.g. stamp collecting), passions (e.g. sunbathing) and talents (the quality of the artwork was exceptional). 

The second key event was meeting Sunny and Peter – the exonerees that often give speeches on the Welcome evening of Amicus Training. I won’t include any spoilers about their story now, as it’s something you need to hear directly from them. What I will say is that the evening ended with Peter (a man who has served 15 years on death row for a crime he did not commit) and I discussing Trump and veganism over pad thai. If that doesn’t humanise death row for you, I don’t know what will. 

I may be wrong, but I feel like the platitude phenomenon is widespread. In fact, I think there’s a general trend for people to go around being ‘staunchly opposed’ to ‘bad things’ without really giving them a second thought. Perhaps this doesn’t matter so much in the grand scheme of things, but on a personal level, it’s been an amazing learning curve for me. It has both affirmed my decision to work in the legal field as well as provoked me to become a great deal more active in my opposition of the death penalty. 

Apart from the big life lesson and surreal experiences above, my time at Amicus has been remarkable largely because of the people I worked with. The Amicus team are amazing, both in the work they do (particularly given the size of the charity in relation to its impact) but also in their friendliness, patience and flexibility. I’m not kidding– I delayed my internship start date for about one month and then went on to forget every computer password and login I was given! It really has been a hugely fun and eye-opening three months and is something I would encourage anyone who is interested in the charity, legal or human rights sector to apply for.