During the summer between my freshmen and sophomore year I interned for a non-profit legal aid service called Street Democracy under DukeEngage Detroit. Street Democracy focuses on mitigating cycles of poverty and homelessness through restorative justice systems and misdemeanor legal aid. My partner and I were assigned to this company. At the time, this was DukeEngage’s, first time partnering with Street Democracy and it was a privilege to work with them and be involved with the great work they were doing at the time and continue to do today.
Street Democracy, at the time was composed of two full-time employees — Jayesh Patel who was the CEO and Charles Hobbs a senior attorney. One of Street Democracy’s main programs that they were running was Street Outreach Court Detroit (SOCD). This was their main outline through which they practiced their restorative justice aid. This program is a multi-district collaboration between Street Democracy and multiple courts in the greater Detroit area. Without going into too much extraneous detail about the exact inner workings of SOCD, the program allows people who are poor or homeless we with cumulated traffic misdemeanors to be redeemed of those fines in return for accomplishing a set of things to better their housing, living, health, education, etc. situation rather punishing them with more fines or even jail time. At the time of launching SOCD was an incredible feat in terms of the innovation spearheaded by SD in the restorative justice field, but also in terms of getting multiple courts and municipal governments on board with this unique program.
Despite this, the summer we came on board SOCD was temporarily not running due to disagreements amongst the courts. So we were brought in primarily to organize a social media campaign that would consist of interviews and testimonies of previous graduates of the SOCD program in order to convince the judges of the Detroit courts to continue this very effective and life-changing program. So our job was to get in contact with past graduates, come up with questions to ask them in the interview, do the interview, and then film and edit it into a short 1-2 mins video testimony for their Facebook page.
Our secondary job was to organize the company’s first “Policy and Pie” event. This event would happen about twice a year where Street Democracy would invite local stakeholders, the general public, as well as those interested in homelessness and poverty reform for a night of pie and talking about policy. More specifically the purpose of this event is to (1) celebrate and evaluate the progress that has been made in terms of SOCD and general policy reform (2) get feedback from customers and the public on things SD could be doing better and (3) talk about the future direction that Street Democracy will be going in as well as hopes and predictions about future legislation. We were responsible for planning this event which included everything from flyer creation to ordering the pies to facilitating donations on the night.
Below are three sample interviews my partner and I did while at Street Democracy. These are three people who graduated from the program and are simply telling their story and how/if SOCD impacted their lives. More of these amazing stories can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/streetdemocracy/videos/
Here are the flyers that we produced in order to promote Street Democracy’s inaugural “Policy and Pie” event.