Oregon City, Oregon
I began at CIDC in early June. From day one, I was immersed in the justice system both physically – via consistent trips to the courthouse – and mentally, because when I was not in court, I was working on various research assignments for a number of consortium attorneys. I worked on a wide variety of cases, ranging from misdemeanors like failure to perform duties of a driver to severe felonies like ID theft and sex abuse to post-conviction issues like merger at sentencing. While the range of issues and near constant topic changes were quite daunting, I had fantastic mentors who were quite approachable and willing to answer any questions.
What I enjoyed most about my time with CIDC was the time I got to spend in Community Court, which is one of the Clackamas County justice system’s diversion programs out of the “official” or formal criminal justice system, though it takes place in the same judicial complex. Eligible defendants are referred to Community Court by the DDA prosecuting them, and, in exchange for a guilty plea, the defendants are given a Deferred Sentencing Agreement (DSA) that requires them to perform certain tasks which, ideally, will benefit them in the long run – like entering rehabilitation, writing an apology letter to the victim, consulting with the Oregon Housing Authority, meeting with an employment center like Worksource, meeting with the financial aid office of a local community college, etc. Upon completion of the tasks in their DSA, the defendants’ guilty pleas are either dismissed – which means the charges are dropped – or they are discharged – which means the prosecutor will take no further action on the case. In my opinion, Community Court and other county diversion programs like Mental Health Court and Drug Court represent the most restorative aspect of Clackamas County’s criminal justice system, wherein defendants take responsibility for their actions, understand the harm they have caused, and receive an opportunity to redeem themselves and hopefully, improve their circumstances. Perhaps most importantly, the diversion programs keep the defendants out of jail, as long as they can show they’re progressing through the system. Ultimately, I think the approach of the diversion programs should be the rule, not the exception, for how federal and state courts administer justice.
Receiving the PILP award was very important to me. In one way, it validated my feelings that the work I was doing was indeed important to the public, and that I deserved to be remunerated for it. From a practical standpoint, it reduced the amount of loans I took out and allowed me to not have to look for other, paying jobs that I could do part-time to subsidize my work at CIDC. In addition, receiving the award means I get to be on the PILP board and get some excellent experience fundraising and helping new members.