Ruby-Beth Buitekant is a 2016 Ella Baker summer intern at CCR. Check out her recent interview with the American Bar Association Law Student podcast.
I am wrapping up my summer as an Ella Baker summer intern here at CCR world in Manhattan. In June, to kick off the summer, we gathered with legal interns from around the country who would be working at one of four social justice organizations. We spoke over those days about what it means to be in a profession that can simultaneously be useful in seeking justice in the face of oppression while holding the truth that the law has also been used to oppress, control and kill marginalized groups here and abroad. We challenged the exceptionalism that is often taught in law schools and instead were encouraged to think about the ways that the law can support of organizers and movements. We talked about the power of listening, learning from organizers and taking back seat - not something lawyers are typically trained to do.
It has been a heavy summer. Half-way through our internship, Alton Sterling was murdered by the police followed the next day by the murder of Philando Castile. Their deaths and the incredible surge of anti-violence activism in their names has reminded us of the urgency of our work to create safety for people who experience state violence.
It’s also been a deeply personal summer. Social justice work requires the self control to pace yourself for a long journey and simultaneously deal with crises. This summer I have had the opportunity to work on the recent settlement agreement that CCR helped reach with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to curb their use of indefinite solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is rapidly become a major civil rights issue of our time. California has, for years, been putting people in solitary confinement without justification and under the guise of rehabilitation and safety. I have worked with many people who spent time in solitary confinement and talked about the horror of their experiences. This concept has haunted me since I truly understood it and what haunted me even more deeply was the concern that, because it was happening in prisons, it was a near-untouchable wrong.
This winter, during my first year of law school I went to an evening event hosted by CCR and heard how the organization was not only tackling solitary confinement, they were doing so by following people who were in solitary who were organizing to protest their own treatment. CCR was following the lead of people directly affected by the oppressive system of solitary and had won a settlement against the prisons!
I was floored.
This summer I have been honored to participate in the implementation of the settlement and work with CCR’s team and co-counsel in California to make sure that all of the terms of the settlement are being implemented. This type of work is messy and often behind the scenes. I know now that so many of the folks at CCR are happy to do that work to make these shifts start to take place. I’m so happy to be here.
Thanks for a great summer.