Social Science Scholar: Researching Wrongful Conviction

I spent the Summer of 2018 interning at Healing Justice Project in Washington, D.C. Healing Justice Project has two main goals: inform policy and hold healing retreats. Simply put, healing retreats are where wrongfully convicted persons and original victims (none which know one another) can come together, usually over a weekend, to discuss their experience. Regarding policy, Healing Justice Project had just received a large grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to research ways that communication with original victims in cases of wrongful conviction could be improved. My role as a policy intern was to provide research assistance on this grant as well as a few side projects.

There were two other interns that I worked with and we were each given a certain amount of grant work to complete before the summer’s end. The brunt of the project was collecting jurisdictional data from the National Registry of Exonerees (an almost comprehensive list of wrongfully convicted persons in the U.S.). This data would be used to distribute a survey to individuals relevant to each case. As for the side projects, I was tasked with writing two policy briefs. The first brief addressed possible avenues for wrongfully convicted persons to received social services from the state. The second brief was meant to inform the executive director of my experience contacting victims as an intern in the Florida Commission on Offender Review.

This program has been invaluable to my college career. For one, I was able to decide that law school was in fact the right decision for me. My supervisor at the time, the executive director, was a wonderful person to meet. We often had long discussions about law school and what my potential legal career could look like. I also had enriching experiences that I could not have been exposed to anywhere else, adding great substance to my law school personal statement. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be a social science scholar. I have made great friends and memories throughout the process.

Osvaldo A. Rodriguez is working on a double major in political science and criminology. He is writing an honors thesis, “Analyzing the Effects of Inmate Labor on Prison Recidivism in Florida,” under the supervision of Dr. Brian Stults.

The feature image is from the Healing Justice Project.

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