During this past year- my first year in the MSW program at Georgia State- I have had the amazing opportunity to intern at the Georgia Justice Project with the social workers. As the school year comes to a close, I am forever indebted to Julie and Sanchez for what they taught me . I knew that interning at GJP would teach me about justice, the hardships that so many individuals and families face, and how to fight some of the injustices of our imperfect criminal system, but I had no idea that my experience would be as rich as it was.
While I knew the organization as a whole was effective and helpful, I had no idea to the extent the staff goes to make sure the clients “make it”. The attorneys are quite brilliant in handling the court cases, but it never stopped when a verdict was reached. The attorneys work with the client on their legal plan- probation, reporting, community service, etc- to determine what obstacles the client would have to overcome to complete what the court had ordered. These needs were communicated with the social workers and, together, the team makes sure that the client is successful. Clients are clients for life, even if they haven’t stepped foot in the office in years, and it was amazing how GJP would jump right back in to help with whatever the client needed.
Every day I saw Julie and Sanchez work with clients, using the client’s strengths to help them overcome their weaknesses. If a client came in and needed help finding a job, the social workers used the client’s existing resources -family and friend contacts, past job skills, sense of motivation- to help him develop and work a specific plan for that client. If a client was having some difficulty with family relationships after being released from prison, the social workers would discuss ideas for positive interactions and how to rebuild relationships with one’s children or spouse.
I was able to see firsthand how all this work helps our community. GJP is reducing recidivism rates, creating safer communities and reducing costs to taxpayers who would otherwise have to pay to have more people in the justice system- in court, in jail or prison, or on the streets. I saw GJP fight to give clients a second chance at life, even when the client didn’t feel she deserved one. This makes our fellow community members more motivated , more productive, and more self-sufficient. New Horizons Landscaping employees were perfect examples of this. They were building job experience and skills to use later in life. I learned how an agency can affect policy at the government level, fighting for unjust laws to be changed to make life easier for those who have a criminal history. I saw how businesses, organizations, foundations, and dedicated individuals in our community believe so strongly in the mission of GJP that they give their time and money to support this worthy cause.
I am sad my time is over, but there is no way that the effects of GJP on my life will be forgotten anytime soon!