By Law Clerk, Sakina Islam
Endorsed by Ugur Nedim
Prior to joining the team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers, I was given the opportunity to intern at Justice Action and work alongside prisoners, academics, victims of crime, ex-prisoners and general community members.
Justice Action is a community-based advocacy group that supports criminal justice reform.
It is also a social enterprise and independent watchdog that targets the abuse of authority.
From my internship, I gained valuable insights into the life of prisoners and the many injustices they face under our legal system.
Particularly as a law student, this has been an eye opening experience to see how sometimes it is the authorities that fail to keep up with basic human right standards.
A definite highlight has been corresponding with the prisoners over the phone and reading their personalised web pages on iExpress.
It was quite an experience to talk to someone who has spent a large portion of their life in solitary confinement and what astounded me the most was how they continued to remain optimistic about their chances given their seemingly-bleak circumstances.
Putting a voice to the name made me feel a greater degree of sympathy, and even more passionate about my work at the organisation.
Unfortunately for prisoners, they do not have the right to access social networking sites and are barred from the digital world.
The iExpress program is a wonderful platform for the rehabilitation of prisoners, as they are encouraged to express themselves and re-define who they truly believe they are.
Reading their personalised web pages was not only thought provoking, but it was interesting to see that many of these people “disowned” by society are capable, intelligent human beings.
What I didn’t expect from my internship was the vast amount of time spent drafting and finalising media releases and the website development aspect of the organisation.
However, midway through my experience I began to realise how powerful a tool this was in spreading a message across the community.
This has been evident in Justice Action’s several achievements, which include raising awareness and defending the rights of children to maintain their all day visits to their mothers at the Emu Plains Correctional Centre, and after almost 2 ½ years of campaigning, getting a forensic patient his fundamental visitation rights.
As an aspiring criminal lawyer, I believe that by interning at Justice Action I have gained some invaluable skills in the realm of criminal law.
This internship has been both an educational and exciting journey.
Moreover, it has definitely reaffirmed my passion for working as a lawyer in the criminal justice system.