Imagine you are convicted of a minor felony or even falsely convicted of a major felony. You are released from prison after many years and are handed $40 of “gate money” and the clothes on your back. Either your family abandoned you or you cannot live with them because most landlords will not rent to people with felony convictions. You are not employed because most employers will not hire people convicted of felonies. You have a substance abuse disorder that was not resolved in prison. And on top of all that, you have Legal Financial Obligations you must pay for from your arrest and conviction, ranging from $100 to $30,000. This is how inhumane people who have been incarcerated are treated upon reentry into society in the United States.
This summer, I am interning for The STAR Project here in Walla Walla, Washington. The STAR Project stands for The Successful Transition and Reentry Project. STAR serves people with felony convictions in the Walla Walla county and surrounding areas, while focusing services on people who are incarcerated in the Washington State Penitentiary, directly after release and/or within one year of their release date. STAR serves about 130 people annually, while also serving to better the community of Walla Walla as a whole. As a small non-profit, there are only eight employees (including myself). The STAR Project provides persons being released from incarceration with the essential tools to successfully reintegrate into the community as productive and contributing members. We achieve this by having four main programs for our clients: Pre-Release Transition, Case Management, Housing, and Employment. As an intern for the STAR Project, I experience something different and new every day. Part of my job is to open the door for clients, answer the phone, and set up client appointments, as well as search for grants and submit paperwork and information to Apricot, our online system. I am also given tasks to do on Apricot, such as run data analyses on clients and report statistics.
I am a Psychology major and intend to minor in Politics, as my goal is to attend Law School after I graduate from Whitman in 2020. I am very interested in Psychology, more specifically mental health within the criminal justice system. This organization is giving me the experience of working in an office environment and for a non-profit organization. I have already gained much knowledge about how funding for non-profits works and what guidelines to follow. This internship is also allowing me to learn more about the criminal justice and incarceration system, apply my psychology knowledge, and enhance my interest in political reform of social justice issues such as mass incarceration, homelessness, and poverty. I can specifically apply my education of Abnormal Psychology, Psychology and Law, and Cognitive Psychology to interning at the STAR Project. I will also be able to apply my experience of this internship to a sociology class I am taking next semester on Crime and Delinquency. It has also given me a new perspective of just how lucky I am to receive an education and come from the privilege I do.
Experiences like Bryanna’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff.