Words by Moriah Adams, a CAPA Spring 2017 student in Dublin, about her internship experience.
Studying abroad, even if only half way through, has taught me so many lessons. I knew that I would be in classes and placed in an internship, inevitably learning as a result, but the experience of doing so abroad is like nothing I could have experienced at home— a place where I’m comfortable and familiar with my surroundings. I was made aware of the location of my internship placement about three weeks prior to my departure, and considering the possibility of going to law school, I was pleased to hear that I would be working in a private law firm. However, very soon after, I was contacted again only to find out that my placement had been switched to another location that would be “better fitted to my interests.” Curious, and a little nervous to have such a quick, unexpected change, I tried to keep an open mind as to what this new placement might be. With limited understanding as to what exactly my placement was, even after reading the description, I flew into Dublin with little-to-no expectations, and a lot of hope.
I was placed at something called The Bridge Project which is a community based project targeting male violent offenders in the Dublin Metropolitan Region. Their aim is to help their clients reintegrate into society successfully and to lower their high risk of reoffending. One of the main ways they do this is by coordinating and acquainting the offenders with practical necessities such as health care and proper accommodation details upon release from prison, rehabilitative care in the presence of issues with drugs or alcohol, educational opportunities offering social enterprise and occupational skills, and interventional efforts in relation to their offenses and past criminal behavior. Some of the clients are even trained as certified baristas and barbers through internal training programs.
The whole focus of the work environment is that people can change— that someone’s past doesn’t define who they are. I didn’t realize it initially, but this was a completely different philosophy than the one I was used to and to what the American culture promotes. With things like minimum sentencing, “hard-on-crime” approaches, and the menacing image of the criminal that has been painted in the American public’s mind, I think it was hard for me to wrap my head around at first. But, while there are always exceptions, the project and the Irish criminal justice system, is living, breathing evidence that not only can people change, but given the appropriate resources and just a little trust, they do.
The Bridge Project houses the Program Development Unit of the Irish Probation Service and is tasked with designing, testing, and evaluating target offender programs and interventions for the purpose of use on a national basis by the probation service and by its partner community based organizations. This is where I have found myself working and performing research on the criminal mind. I have been given the opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of one of the rehabilitative curriculums through administering surveys to the clients at Bridge as well as prisoners in the Mountjoy Prison. An overwhelming majority of the results have shown a drastic decrease of attitudes in favor of future criminal behavior by subjects. Upon presenting this research to my supervisor and to others administering the program, everyone seemed to be encouraged. Working to help people change their behavior patterns in this context almost always means helping them to first change the way they view themselves altogether, which can be difficult, bumpy work, discouraging at times. So, it is the little affirmations like this one, and the heart-warming success stories that keep people going.
During my time here, I have watched and had the incredible opportunity to be a part of the development of those very success stories. I have seen these men go from being near illiterate and unable to do simple adding or subtracting, to applying for jobs, ready and employable. I have witnessed certain clients go from having habitual criminal lifestyles to rejecting those behaviors because they recognize that conventional, law-abiding behavior ultimately cultivates peace for themselves and for those around them.
The fact that I have been given the opportunity to participate and contribute to this kind of work has made me all the more excited about my field and future within it. It turns out that this placement, despite my initial nervousness, could not have been more perfect for what I hope to accomplish, and I believe that much of what I have learned here, both within my internship and in my Global Internship class, will prove to be both useful and invaluable for the duration of my career. I will be forever thankful for the experiences that I have found here in Dublin, Ireland.