The first year law student team working in the Public Defender’s Office was assigned to conduct first appearance interviews. These interviews provide an initial assessment of potential clients entering the prison system to see if they qualify for assistance. We met in the intake room of the prison with prisoners awaiting their bond hearing and observed the magistrate court. After collecting information about the potential clients we made follow up phone calls to their families to provide information about their bond.
Our work with first appearances continued the second day. One of the most fulfilling parts of our work has been letting the new prisoners know their rights as they enter the prison system. We have observed first-hand how unsettling the entry into the prison system can be for people that often don’t know what awaits them, what exactly they are charged with, or how to work with the system. Our general knowledge of the legal system and the training provided to us by the Public Defender’s Office has enabled us to alleviate some of their anxiety by letting them know what will be happening next and simply showing that someone cares about their case. This experience has really opened our eyes, and we look forward to learning more about the criminal justice system each day.