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SBAN|UII Interns

The SBAN UII Interns stand with their mentor outside Keller, Lisgar & Williams, LLP law offices.

Thanks to generous contributions from Swarthmore Black Alumni Network members in 2017, SBAN was able to support student internships through the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. Under the leadership of Professor Keith Reeves '88, students are serving as Urban Inequality and Incarceration legal interns in summer 2018.

Each intern is mentored by a practicing attorney, observes criminal and civil trials, and performs mitigation research for a juvenile client. Additionally, they each conduct an individual research project on social impact and policy.

About the 2018 SBAN | UII Scholars

Margaret Cohen '19

Margaret Cohen '19Margaret is a rising senior from New Castle, N.H., and attended high school at Phillips Exeter Academy. She is pursuing a major in political science and a double minor in philosophy and French. Outside the classroom, Margaret is a Student Academic Mentor, helping underclassmen navigate academic life at Swarthmore. Margaret is also a Class of 2019 Student Senator, an assistant to the Political Science Department, an astronomy S.A., a co-vice president of the Mock Trial team, and a volunteer at the Student Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia. In her free time, she enjoys long-distance running and playing piano. Last summer, Margaret was a legal intern for the Children and Family Law Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Massachusetts, where she worked with clients whose parental rights were suspended or terminated. This summer, Margaret is excited to be a SBAN | UII legal intern to continue learning about the criminal justice system and potential measures to reform discriminatory policies in the U.S. Her individual project investigates the questions posed to undergraduate applicants by the Common Application regarding criminal backgrounds—and, more specifically, how Swarthmore utilizes those questions. She will write a literature review including the answers to these questions as well as insight into the broader implications for the educational crisis facing young people of color from disadvantaged backgrounds. After Swarthmore, Margaret intends to attend law school to continue her social justice legal studies and advance her pursuit of reforming the criminal justice system.


"Does Swarthmore College Ask About Crime and Discipline on the Common Application?"

Since 2006, the Common Application—the dominant player in competitive college admissions—has been asking questions about applicants' criminal background and disciplinary records. What have Swarthmore's long-standing policies and practices been with regard to applicants with criminal backgrounds? What does the criminal background data tell us about Swarthmore applicants—and, importantly, is the question utilized in the Swarthmore admissions process? Does the admissions staff exercise the option to suppress an applicants' answer to the question "Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony?" Should the College's admissions and policies be revised based upon the data? And what are the broader implications for the educational crisis facing young people of color and those from rural and disadvantaged backgrounds?

Sarah Girard '19

Sarah Girard '19A rising senior pursuing a double major in mathematics and political science, Sarah is from Woodbine, Md., and graduated from Glenelg High School. The past two summers, Sarah interned in Washington, D.C., with the National Education Association, working on several projects within the Campaign & Elections Department. Sarah's experience with the NEA introduced her to the school-to-prison pipeline, sparking her interest in the American prison system. She enrolled in the spring 2018 Inside-Out course taught by professors Keith Reeves and Ben Berger, and this transformative experience motivated her to work as an SBAN | UII legal intern. Using data collected from previous Inside-Out courses, Sarah will produce the first empirical study on the impact of the Inside-Out model of higher education on incarcerated students. Outside the classroom, Sarah competes as a multisport athlete on Swarthmore’s varsity volleyball and women’s track and field teams. 


"A Pre- and Post-Evaluation of Swarthmore's Inside-Out Prison Program"

This particular research project will examine six years of pre- and post-evaluation data on the Politics of Punishment course, in which college undergraduates studied alongside incarcerated students in a medium-security correctional setting. The analysis will aim to examine both sociodemographic variables to understand incarcerated students' attitudes toward various criminal justice policies and sanctions. In addition, the project is particularly interested in whether the incarcerated students transcend the "prison label" and envision a new world of improved post-release opportunities for employment and participation in the larger society. Finally, with regard to the importance and need for increased and enhanced in-prison education, the significance of the empirical findings will be discussed.  

Amorina Pearce '19

Amorina Pearce '19Amorina, a senior from Corpus Christi, Texas, is pursuing a double major in political science and economics. On campus, she is a QuestBridge Scholar and a leader in Women+ in Political Science and the Student Philanthropy Council. Amorina enrolled in Philosophy and Politics of Punishment with professors Keith Reeves and Ben Berger in spring 2018. This summer, she is working with Reeves as an SBAN | UII intern. Her independent project is to organize and support the establishment of the Chester Think Tank, which will serve as an extension of the Inside-Out course and allow for continued discussions beyond prison walls about issues of mass incarceration, prisoners’ rights, and criminal justice reform. She is interested in transformative justice practices as an alternative to the current system. After Swarthmore, Amorina intends to pursue a law career. Her practice model will be client-centered and work to build trust with those who have been disempowered by the legal system.


"A Proposal for the Establishing of an Inside-Out Think Tank at SCI-Chester"

Building on the group project work of spring's Philosophy and Politics of Punishment course, this project will advance the proposal for a think tank (modeled on SCI-Graterford). In particular, the project will further crystallize the following: (1) designing both a mission and vision statement; (2) delineating immediate, intermediate, and long-term goals and objectives; (3) devising an organizational structure; and (4) importantly, connecting with numerous think tanks across the Inside-Out global network for additional ideas and suggestions. 

Jack Pokorny '19

Jack Pokorny '19Jack was raised on a small organic farm his parents run outside Port Townsend, Wash. He has worked in areas as diverse as commercial fishing in Alaska and fundraising for teen-suicide awareness in Washington state. He is a rising senior and a transfer student from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. Being at Swarthmore has allowed Jack to hone his interests through his major in political science and minor in philosophy. He is the founder of the Swarthmore Philosophy Club and enjoys playing the mandolin and being in nature. Jack hopes to navigate the world post-graduation through law and journalism, and will apply to graduate schools in the fall.


"Developing a Podcast on the Alexander McClay Williams Case"

This groundbreaking podcast aims to compellingly retell the story of the 1931 execution of Alexander McClay Williams, a 16-year-old "Negro," believed to be the youngest person executed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Imprisoned at the Glen Mills School for Boys, Williams was charged with—and executed for—the fatal stabbing of Vida Robare, a white Glen Mills matron. Meticulous research suggests that Williams was unwittingly forced into confessing to the crime, and on June 8, 1931, he died in the electric chair.

David Vacianna '19

David Vacianna '19David was born into a Jamaican family in the epicenter of Caribbean culture in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y. He is a rising senior and recent transfer student to Swarthmore College, majoring in political science. At Swarthmore, David has been able to pursue many of his interests, including a love of books, entrepreneurship, and law. So far, these explorations have materialized into his interning for Swarthmore College’s Libraries and being named the Black Cultural Center’s library coordinator for 2018–19; receiving first-place honors in 2018’s Tri-Co Startup Pitch Competition Weekend; and being selected for the second cohort of SBAN | UII legal interns. The latter exploration is the most significant to David’s Swarthmore journey: As early as age 9, David has been intrigued by the intricacies of the law and its praxises. Now, as a legal intern, David has the opportunity to examine various facets of the law while researching mass incarceration and its relation to Philadelphia and Chester, Pa., using James Forman Jr.’s Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America as methodological framework.   


"Locking Up Our Own: A Historical Study of Crime and Punishment in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania"

Scholars and policymakers have traditionally blamed conservative tough-on-crime policies and the War on Drugs in the 1980s as the contemporary causes of mass incarceration. Others predate the origins of mass incarceration, arguing that our expansive crime controls developed from civil rights and anti-poverty policymaking in the 1960s and '70s. Utilizing the methodological framework outlined in James Forman's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, this project will explore the origins of mass incarceration in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with a specific focus on the inner-city communities of Chester and Philadelphia.