‘I’ve been in rooms and conversations I never would’ve dreamt of, have picked up an entire new skillset, and leave with a strong sense of motivation and determination to create change – both for myself, and on a systemic level using my other unique skills.’
Jamie is a Longford scholar and is currently studying towards his MSc in Nanotechnology for Medicine and Health Care, while running a chemical lab in the construction industry. With experience in roles of varying seniority, and after being a case study for Ban the Box Northern Ireland, Jamie wanted a taste of the criminal justice sector, and so when the opportunity arose, he applied for our four-month, paid Awards and Communications Internship starting in August. He describes his experience at the CJA in this blog:
As my time with the Criminal Justice Alliance has now come to an end, I’ve been fit to reflect on the amazing opportunities that have arisen over the course of my paid internship and I’d like to begin this blog with a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of the staff at the CJA, and to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting or working alongside during the past few months.
Communications and Engagement
Initially I spent some time learning systems such as social media scheduling and analytics, SurveyMonkey for gathering feedback, WordPress for website content and Mail Chimp for CJA’s weekly bulletins which summarise policy news from across the CJS, as well as the work of the CJA and its members. I also worked with the Deputy Director Annette to discuss the adoption of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. I was tasked with researching, summarising and presenting my findings to the team. I then took on board their feedback to present a list of essential tasks a CRM would need to accomplish for the CJA to more effectively engage with our different stakeholders including members, policy makers and the media.
CJA Awards 2022
The internship involved working alongside the Communications Officer Natalia to plan and deliver the annual CJA Awards, which celebrate outstanding work both within the sector, and the media champions who use their platforms to improve the criminal justice system. You can read more about the awards and previous winners here.
As the Awards ceremony drew closer, we spent a lot of time coordinating with the venue, caterers, digital media professionals and suppliers for decorations. On top of this, I was tasked with communicating with shortlisted nominees and their attendees – to say I’m now proficient with the Outlook suite would be an understatement! The CJA Awards 2022 was a success, and to see our months of hard work come together was amazing. It was fantastic to meet everyone I’d been reading about and emailing with in person, and to hear about their incredible work in their own words. You can watch a short film of the evening here.
Promoting Ban the Box and Fair Checks
At the end of August, I flew to Prague with the CJA team for the dissemination of the Erasmus+ programme ‘Together for Systemic Change in Criminal Justice’ alongside our international partners. This was during my first month and before I had met any of the team in-person, but Nina, the Director, offered me the opportunity to speak on a panel about my own experience of applying for jobs and the significance of the Ban the Box campaign. I stepped out of my comfort zone and seized the opportunity to talk about the importance of lived experience leadership in systemic change, and I couldn’t have been more glad, as it was well received by the audience and led to more opportunities and connections.
Later in my internship Nina and I recorded a Q&A piece for a cohort of MBA students at the University of the Arts London shortly to aid the students’ system design project ‘Employing People After Prison’ building their understanding of what employers can do to support people with convictions to find work. In November, we were also invited to speak at WISH EU’s (Working in Small-scale Detention Houses in Europe) online Learning Lab which focused on access to work both inside detention facilities and post-release. While Nina spoke about the policy work that the CJA and their members have been involved in, I highlighted the Ban the Box and Fair Checks campaigns, as well as my own personal experience.
The staff at the CJA really made the experience what it was. Everyone was friendly and welcoming from day one, and never had an issue answering any of the many questions I had. For example, the Policy Manager, Hannah, showed me the most effective way to use Hansard to find policy work for the bulletins, but also made the time to talk me through how to find and interpret current legislation, which came in extremely useful for a university project.
Working closely with the Communications Officer Natalia and ELEVATE CJS Project Manager, Nola, we produced effective communications in the lead up to the project launch, including designing the new logo! Nola and I developed a very positive working relationship and we always had interesting, in-depth conversations about lived experience leadership. One of our early ones was the first time I realised I could make a huge impact while still moving forward and becoming much more than ‘my story’. For me, this was a profound moment and something I’ve been actively implementing ever since.
While I’ve managed projects, planned events, and been involved in visual marketing before, the range of tasks involved in the internship with the CJA had me learning an array of new software and skills which I know will serve me well in the future. I’ve been in rooms and conversations I never would’ve dreamt of, have picked up an entire new skillset, and leave with a strong sense of motivation and determination to create change – both for myself, and on a systemic level using my other unique skills. For anyone thinking about applying – do it! I’m eternally grateful to the CJA and the Longford Trust for the opportunity, and their continued support through my studies.