By Korie Manley
In January, after weeks of researching for places to intern, I had the privilege of receiving a student internship position at the Minnesota Justice Research Center. The Minnesota Justice Research Center (MNJRC) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to driving meaningful change to Minnesota’s criminal legal system through rigorous and community-centered research, education, and policy development.
I’m Korie Manley, a recent graduate of Hamline University, class of 2022. With a major in Criminology and Criminal Justice and a minor in Forensic Science and Sociology, I strive to find ways to bring forward justice and awareness of social justice issues that spread across our state, country, and world.
Prior to receiving my Bachelor’s degree, I was taking a required Senior Capstone course at Hamline. The course required me to complete an internship in order to graduate. My advisor suggested I look into MNJRC as a potential site. I immediately had an interest just by the name of the organization alone, it seemed like a place where I could gain hands-on experience in advocacy work and gain knowledge on the research process while working to push our system toward justice.
Throughout my four-month internship at MNJRC, I gained so much experience when it came to researching and collaborating, and got the opportunity to put together a community event. Let me tell you a little about it all.
Police Accountability and Internal Police Accountability
One of the first things that I had the pleasure of working on was assisting the Research Director, Katie Remington Cunningham, on a Police Accountability Report. With this project, I had the opportunity to read articles in professional journals and gain more experience making annotated bibliographies and providing citations - basic research tasks that helped me grow my skills.
While helping to research a topic that was incredibly interesting and important to me, I realized that I wanted to shape my own Senior Capstone project around something similar. Our Capstone was designed to focus on ethical issues in the justice system. As I was reading articles, something stood out to me: internal police accountability seemed like an ethical issue. I realized there has been much talk about police accountability from an external view, but I began to see that there wasn’t much being said about the internal portion of accountability. So I dug in.
I learned that there are several things that go into internal police accountability such as police unions, Internal Affairs, police subculture, and the firing and rehiring process. I also learned that many officers don’t get investigated for misconduct allegations. Although some do, many that are investigated do end up getting their jobs back based on appeals made through their unions. I also researched Early Warning Systems (EWS), systems that identify, intervene, and follow up with officers who show problematic behaviors. Using my new knowledge, I created this infographic for my Capstone project.
Working closely with Katie and developing my own project was an exciting process - I learned a lot and got to support a larger project.
Hennepin County Attorney Forum
In addition to supporting police accountability research, I had the opportunity to help lead the planning of a community event to educate the public on the Hennepin County Attorney candidates. The Hennepin County Attorney Forum was the project I had spent the most time working on during my internship. It was fun and interesting to be able to witness and partake in the organizational process of putting an event together. Throughout the process, it became more and more clear to me how important it was that the forum was geared toward community members and educate those who may be unclear about what the County Attorney does.
With this event, I helped out by doing research on each of the candidates, exploring and learning more about what the county attorney does, and providing information on the race in Hennepin County in a helpful one-pager that others can easily read to stay informed. We used the one-pager to make a short webinar (check it out here).
While I did much of the background needed for the event, I also had a few chances to get my name out there as someone who was working hard on the event. I participated in "call times," learning more about the work that organizers do. I helped the Executive Director, Justin Terrell, make calls to people to give them updates on when the Forum was going to take place and how to RSVP. This gave me an opportunity to get the word out as well as being able to talk with people who showed interest in this topic. On the day of the event, I also had the opportunity to introduce the forum to over one hundred people and provide a little information about myself and my role of monitoring the chat for questions.
These were opportunities that I had never experienced before. Sure, they were nerve-wracking since they were things I had never done before but I was and still am so thankful that I was given the privilege to expand my knowledge and experience by stepping slightly out of my comfort zone. I am also thankful to have worked with a team of kind and educated people who all seemed to care very deeply about making an impact and helping the community to understand the issues surrounding the justice system as much as they can.
Because of this, I aspire to continue working in nonprofit organizations that revolve around making the criminal legal system a more just place. While there is still a lot of work to be done, I hope that I can make at least one more person aware of these issues and topics.
As a final thanks to the MNJRC for letting me intern with them, I made them an infographic with the information about their organization. Check it out! I highly recommend working with the MNJRC.