My year with JVC, living in Los Angeles and working at Homeboy Industries, exposed me to a reality in which the law impacts the daily lives of individuals, and the criminal justice system perpetuates the cycle of injustice. Conversations with my housemates, who taught the children of individuals I worked with and knew the families of my clients, helped to create a more comprehensive picture of the inimitable community in Boyle Heights. Here, a sense of community and solidarity has led to astounding feats, and I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the welcome we received. At Homeboy, nicknames replace obscurity and fist bumps eliminate the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ I hope to carry this sense of community with me to a profession that leaves many feeling anonymous. While the immensity of injustice within this system may be vast, this past year has destroyed any doubt about the power of interaction and connection.
Behind any story I heard of encounters with the criminal justice system and the law were much larger notions of social injustice: structural racism, educational inequality, unequal distribution of resources, to name a few. Understanding the value of viewing the law through an interdisciplinary lens, I was drawn to Georgetown Law’s identity as a Jesuit institution, driven by the motto: “Law is but the means, justice is the end.” The 1L curriculum in which I am currently enrolled illustrates this notion by employing the unique approach of integrating the normally siloed 1L courses, and including readings on history, philosophy, and economics in the foundational law school classes. In this way, we learn the law as a dynamic entity that affects individuals, rather than as a remote and abstract principle.
Spending the majority of my days in a classroom makes me appreciate even more the relationships I formed through JVC, the value of which certainly cannot fit in a casebook but continuously inform how I engage with the content of my courses. Encountering the reality of a broken legal system seems daunting and overwhelming at times, but reflecting on my year with JVC provides a constant source of energy; I remember the people I met who enacted change through kinship and who emanated hope, and I am provided an example to which to aspire.
Carly Sullivan is from South Boston, MA and attended Boston College, where she majored in Political Science and International Studies, with a concentration in Ethics and International Social Justice. She was thrilled to join JVC after graduation and to have the opportunity to serve as a Workforce Development Associate at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles.