Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I am now one month into my internship in Philadelphia and it has already been one of the most interesting and valuable experiences I have had. Earlier this month I was able to visit a man who has spent almost half of his life on death row. Before meeting him it was hard to know what to expect, and even though he was described to me as being ‘goofy’, I was still nervous. However, as soon as we started talking I felt comfortable because he was just a normal guy who wanted to talk about TV and music, the US election, and of course ask me lots of questions about life in England. Despite everything, he has managed to remain relatively happy and is definitely as funny as I was warned he was. Perhaps it was because he was such a nice and ‘normal’ man, or maybe I would have had this reaction regardless of the person I had met, but as soon as I walked out of the prison I started crying. Everything about the experience of visiting someone on death row is intense and I cannot imagine it not having a profound effect on someone. For me it confirmed that this is the work I want to do. Men like him cannot spend half of their lives living on death row, waiting for that terrible fate and being unable to even hug their family members because of a crime that they might not have committed and due to the failings of the US criminal justice system.

Whilst the rest of the work I have been doing has not been as life changing for me, it has all been very interesting. Each of the cases I have been able to help with has involved a variety of different tasks and is always new and exciting for me. I always enjoy discussing the cases with the attorneys as I feel that I am learning so much more.

This past month was also the best possible time to have my introduction to Philadelphia. It started with the 4th of July weekend and ended with the Democratic National Convention being hosted here, and it has been full of exciting things to do in between. Philadelphia is obviously full of history and great museums, but because it is summer it is also filled with pop-up beer gardens and outdoor events like Shakespeare in the Park. Overall, it has been an amazing first month!