Last Spring, senior Elleri Vitwar took part in the Lutheran College Washington Semester, interning with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project. The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project aims to exonerate incarcerated individuals who were wrongfully convicted. Vitwar aided in the screening process–reading case reports, appellate documents, and police reports to prepare briefs. The briefs were then subjected to an evaluative board, which determined if the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project would take the case.
As a Criminal Justice major and Sociology minor, Vitwar heard a lot about the criminal justice system, but she never met an incarcerated person. During the Washington semester, Vitwar visited a prison in Maryland to interview a 30-year-old man believed to be wrongfully convicted at age 17. “It was a really cool experience to put a face to a case I had read about and have a human interaction with someone—hearing what he had experienced; what it was like to grow up in a prison.”
The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project was not Vitwar’s only internship. She also interned with Dr. Ball as a member of the Inside Out Program where Vitwar prepared readings, materials, and games for weekly class meetings. The Inside Out Program unites college students and incarcerated individuals together, so that they may learn and foster social change.
Vitwar recognized and appreciated the responsibility of her involvement in the process. “[It] was a really interesting experience to spend a semester with these guys and hear their stories,” she explained. “They have families, you know? It gives it a human element.”
Vitwar recommends both experiences in Washington D.C. and as an intern on campus. “Get out, go beyond your comfort zone,” she urged, “You’ll never know unless you go and try it.”
Edited by Claire Kivior