A Heart for Public Service
On Thursday at the Legal Studies 654: Criminal Justice Field Observation seminar, 50-some summer interns reflected on their internship experiences in various criminal justice agencies. Inevitably, the topic of post-graduation plans came up. On the one hand, it seemed like nearly everyone had a remarkable experience at their placement. On the other hand, hesitations and concerns overshadowed the group when asked whether to pursue the work through a full-time position.
As an example, we discussed the Dane County District Attorney’s office. The DA has over 400 cases piled on his desk, and there is only enough time and resources for those with sufficient evidence. Despite having law school loans forgiven after 10 years of service, constantly working overtime and getting paid next-to-nothing is not an ideal situation for anyone trying to raise a family. This example raised the question of whether increasing funding for public service positions so that a DA is paid as well as an attorney in a private law firm would solve the problem. In the end, we decided that if the position became lucrative, it might attract the “wrong people” who are seeking money rather than justice and equity.
Working at NCCD as a SafeMeasures® intern, I have both heard and experienced what it means to work with a heart for public service. The same skills can be applied in different areas that produce completely different outcomes—just like a brilliant computer scientist can be either a cybercrime detective or a hacker. Many organizations can generate reports from data given by child welfare agencies and various juvenile justice systems. However, SafeMeasures presents clients with something that they cannot buy: unlimited requests for report changes with a one-time paid subscription and a team of people who are willing and eager to work with whatever information they have.
Along with this service designed to help agencies better serve children and families, I also am encouraged by the diversity of my coworkers’ backgrounds. From biochemistry to music majors, regardless of your background, as long as you are willing to learn, the training provided on the job is sufficient for anyone to get started. It is satisfying to know that every ID number in the SafeMeasures database represents a child who is indirectly benefiting from the service we provide. This sense of gratification cannot be measured by a salary amount.
It is reassuring to see college students nurturing a stronger sense of responsibility as they transition from campus to workplace. Understanding the values of leading an independent life and even becoming providers for loved ones is a major step in this rite of passage toward maturity. Nevertheless, I wonder to what extent the idea of being a “grown-up” deters one from pursuing the true passion of one’s heart. After all, there is always hope for a system where we can meet both goals without having to sacrifice one or the other. As for me, I will dedicate my life to promoting and advocating justice for all in any way I can.
Grace Li is a student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she is majoring in biomedical engineering and legal studies. She hopes to pursue an MD/PhD program after graduation.