By Allen Slater

My name is Allen Slater, and I am honored to join Alabama Appleseed as a full-time extern. I admire this organization’s mission, methodology, and compassion, and I am thrilled to contribute to the team. I am also eternally grateful to all of the kind, intelligent people who have supported and encouraged me along my journey to this position.

My path to Alabama Appleseed was a long, winding one that began in Kansas, where I started my career in law enforcement. Over the course of two years, I served as a corrections officer and a rural sheriff’s deputy in the northeastern part of the state. The next part of my career took me to a mid-sized city in Tennessee, where I served as a municipal police officer for nearly three years. My service as a police officer was rewarding, but not without difficulties. I saw the realities and trauma of violence and poverty collide with race and gender issues constantly, and at times, my job felt like using my fingers to plug holes in a dam that was on the verge of collapse. I saw many of the same people for the same issues on a regular basis; I felt less like a guardian of the community than a cog in a large, unyielding machine. That feeling made me question the way that we deployed law enforcement resources, the structure and purpose of some of our laws, and why some communities received different kinds and qualities of policing than others.

Appleseed’s 2021 legal extern Allen Slater

The questions I wrestled came to a head in 2014 with the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City. Those deaths and their aftermath shook me — I knew that we needed serious, systemic changes to make policing fairer, safer, and more transparent, but didn’t know what I could do to help. After some soul searching, I asked myself what I later discovered was a very old question: who guards the guards? In other words, who polices the police? I realized that the best way that I could have a positive impact — to continue helping, protecting, and serving others — would be attending law school and becoming an attorney. As a lawyer, I could to use my previous professional knowledge and experience to advocate for necessary change in the criminal justice system. Attending the University of Alabama School of Law has allowed me to pursue that goal and more.

During law school, I have been fortunate to work with a variety of brilliant attorneys on civil rights, police transparency, and criminal justice reform issues.  During my first summer, I worked as an intern with the Office of the Federal Defender for the Northern District of Florida. There, I fought for the constitutional rights of clients on death row by providing legal research and investigative support for the office’s Capital Habeas Unit. I also was privileged to work as an intern and Student Legal Fellow for The Policing Project at NYU School of Law. In that position, I researched pre-arrest diversion alternatives for a state government that was searching for opportunities to increase public safety while lowering its prison population. Additionally, I conducted extensive research into the use of biometric technologies by law enforcement, which culminated in a series of blog posts.  I was also able to work with the Alabama ACLU on a variety of civil rights issues, ranging from law enforcement misconduct to First Amendment legal questions. Law school also gave me the opportunity to work behind the scenes of the courtroom as an extern for a federal judge in the Northern District of Alabama. I also had the privilege of working for the conviction integrity unit of a district attorney’s office, investigating potential wrongful convictions and providing legal research for law enforcement misconduct prosecutions. Additionally, I was able to publish an academic article proposing a new standard for evaluating police shootings in the Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy. These experiences have broadened and enriched my perspective, giving me deeper insights into the systemic issues plaguing our justice system.

I took those insights with me to the University of Alabama School of Law’s Criminal Defense Clinic at the beginning of my final year of law school. In that program, I, in partnership with a fellow law student, represented clients accused of crimes in Tuscaloosa County under the supervision of our professor. My partner and I also engaged in post-conviction advocacy for a terminally ill client, securing his release from the custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections. My experience fighting for my clients fueled my commitment to criminal justice reform as I realized that the system — and the racial, gender, and class disparities that it aggravates — must be reshaped in order to serve all of us properly. We need a criminal justice system that delivers accountability hand-in-hand with mercy and rehabilitation.

Part of what drew me to Alabama Appleseed was the organization’s approach to criminal justice reform. Appleseed has pursued data driven, effective policies to enhance public safety, build public trust, and respect the inherent value of every person involved in the justice system. Whether advocating for marijuana law reforms or ensuring that sheriffs cannot enrich themselves by starving prisoners and pocketing taxpayer dollars, Appleseed has fought to improve Alabama’s criminal justice system in concrete ways.

Alabama Appleseed’s work also does something less concrete, but equally important: each legal and policy success builds a criminal justice system worthy of public trust in Alabama. My experiences, both as a police officer and as a budding attorney, have shown me that all criminal justice systems are an institutions dependent on public trust. History has shown us that Alabama’s criminal justice system — its police, courts, and prisons — have sometimes squandered that trust in the name of racism, greed, or neglect. To restore that lost trust, Alabama’s victims and defendants need the criminal justice system to show them agency, compassion, and dignity. They need a system that is fair, legitimate, and free of bias; one that protects and respects their humanity and their rights as a priority, rather than an afterthought. Building a better criminal justice system in Alabama requires many people working together in pursuit of a better tomorrow, and I am excited to play my part through my role at Alabama Appleseed.

 

Our team at Alabama Appleseed is pleased to be working with several terrific students this summer. Through remote internships, these students are advancing the cause for justice in Alabama and helping us with research, writing, data collection, policy analysis, and more. The passion, dedication, and skill of these students brightens the future.

We are proud to welcome these students who are working with us to build a better Alabama:

Adelaide Beckman (The University of Alabama School of Law)

Adelaide Beckman is a second year student at the University of Alabama School of Law. Born into a military family, she has lived in eight states and two countries. In 2015, she graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a degree in Communication Studies. Afterwards, she joined Teach For America and worked as a public school teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio, for two years. In 2019, she joined the UA Law School Class of 2022 as a Dean’s Scholar.​

Nefsa’Hyatt Brown (Alabama State University)

Nefsa’Hyatt Brown is a rising senior at Alabama State University majoring in Political Science with a minor in International Relations, Foreign Policy, and Global Studies. She is from Mobile, and as a native of Alabama, she have witnessed how various institutions within the American governmental system disenfranchise certain populations, specifically people of color and those who are impoverished, which has led to her interest in a career in the public sector. Upon graduation, Nefsa’Hyatt plans on going to graduate school to pursue her master’s degree and eventually become a foreign service officer for the United States.

Corryn Carter (Alabama State University)

Corryn Carter is a rising junior Communications major with a minor in Political Science at Alabama State University. She currently serves as the Alabama Youth and College NAACP Juvenile Justice chair and was the 2019-2020 Juvenile Justice Chair for her university chapter of NAACP.

Isabel Coleman (Yale University)

Isabel Coleman grew up in Birmingham Alabama. She studies philosophy and competes on the debate team at Yale University. Ultimately, she hopes to move back to the South and pursue a career in legal advocacy. She is most passion about prison reform and other efforts to address structural inequality.

Alli Koszyk (The University of Alabama School of Law)

Allison Koszyk is a Chicago-Area native who came down South in 2015 for undergrad and never left. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Hospitality Management from the University of Alabama, and will begin her second year of law school in Tuscaloosa, this fall. Allison is on the Advisory Board for the Blackburn Institute, serves as Senator for the law school in the Student Government association. She is the Secretary for Outlaw, and the Director of Communications for the UA Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. She has adopted y’all, and considers herself a Southerner by choice. Allison strives to fight injustice in all its forms and wants the rest of the world to start recognizing the good work that is being done here in the name of equality and justice.

Hannah Krawczyk (Auburn University)

Hannah Krawczyk is a junior working on a degree in the accelerated Bachelors and Masters of Public Administration program at Auburn University. She is on the board of the League of Women Voters of East Alabama, and works on the Auburn Justice Coalition leadership team. Her interests in advocacy and research began after arriving in Alabama for university, and engaging with friends on-campus in advocacy and education projects.
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Imani Richardson (Yale University)
Imani Richardson is from Birmingham, Alabama. She is a rising senior at a Yale University, where she majors in African Studies and Political Science. On campus, she is involved with a number of cultural, advocacy, and service organizations, including Urban Improvement Corps and Yale Black Women’s Coalition, and after graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in public policy and advocacy. This summer, Imani is interning at Alabama Appleseed because she is committed to challenging the forces and narratives that have driven mass incarceration, economic oppression, and racial injustice more broadly by advocating for justice and change at the legal, legislative, and grassroots levels. She believes that in working alongside and demanding better for our society’s most vulnerable and discriminated against, we create a more just, more equitable society for all of us.

Renuka Srivastava (The University of Alabama at Birmingham)

A native of Meridian, Mississippi, Renuka has always held a special place for the South in her heart. Renuka’s passion for the progression of social justice issues in the South has allowed her to bring significant changes on in her community ranging from registering thousands of voters to working on sensory inclusion on an international level. Renuka first started working on campaigns in the 7th grade and strongly believes in policy-based solutions. Renuka looks forward to attending law school this fall and work in the South following law school to litigate for disadvantaged individual and advocate against unjust public policy.

Eli Tylicki (The University of Alabama at Birmingham)

Eli Tylicki is an upcoming senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham studying economics and philosophy. He loves learning, and he gets my fulfillment from helping others. Eli plans to finish at UAB and attend law school so that he may pursue a career in human rights law.

My name is Lisa Cagle and I will be a second year law student at Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama. While I am originally from North Dakota, I am excited to be living in Alabama and enjoying the warm weather year round. I may not have been born here, but I got here as fast as I could.

My background is not your typical law student background. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemical Engineering from UCLA. However, life had other plans for me, and I became a teacher in 2008. During my first year teaching, I read an inspirational book by Wes Stafford titled Too Small To Ignore that changed the way I viewed teaching. In this book, Stafford stresses the importance of focusing on children and their unique needs and not waiting until a person has reached adulthood to begin to consider them a quality member of society. Shortly after that, I met my first child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Finding unique ways to teach that child was an amazing experience for me. As a result, I spent many of my continuing education hours learning about special needs and how to design a classroom setting and modify my teaching style to accommodate children with special needs. Over the course of eight years of teaching, I had the privilege to work with several children with varying needs and the honor to help educate families on special needs and the accommodations and therapies available to help these children learn and thrive in a structured school environment.

After several years of working with children and families, I decided to go to law school to enable me to continue to work with families in ways that I was unable to as a teacher. I desire to do more than recommend other resources and professionals to families in need. I would like to be one of the resources and professionals that a family can turn to. This is also one of the reasons why I am excited to intern at Alabama Appleseed this summer. Appleseed has a reputation for creating change to better the lives of people in Alabama and I am excited to be a part of this.

My project this summer will be the school to prison pipeline. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), the school to prison pipeline is the metaphor for the student disciplinary issues at school that result in students leaving school and entering the criminal justice system. The ABA has done research to discover that a disproportionate number of minority students and students with special needs are dismissed from school, resulting in a disproportionate number of minority students and students with special needs in the criminal justice system. As a former teacher, this issue is near and dear to my heart. I have received training on ways to help children with special needs adjust to a classroom setting and believe that all children deserve a chance for a quality education, not just the ones who have the ability to conform to a “typical classroom setting.” I am honored and thrilled to working as an intern for Alabama Appleseed and am looking forward to continuing Appleseed’s work this summer.

My name is Ellen, and I am looking forward to being an intern this summer with Alabama Appleseed! I just completed my first year of law school at Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama. I grew up in the Nashville, Tennessee area, and I graduated from college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Before coming to law school, I worked for nonprofit organizations providing educational resources to immigrant and low-income communities. I was an AmeriCorps member in Arlington, Virginia with the Arlington Education and Employment Program, where I taught English as a Second Language to adult immigrants from a multitude of countries and of a variety of ages. After that, I was an AmeriCorps member in Nashville, Tennessee with an after-school program for middle school students. That opportunity led to working for The Center for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee (CRIT), where I was a Site Coordinator for one of its after-school programs for middle school students. Later, I was promoted to being the Associate Director of all of CRIT’s after-school programs. Around that time, I became interested in going to law school to be an attorney. CRIT had an immigration attorney, and the work the attorney did stuck out to me. He helped immigrants, who were already positively impacting the Nashville community, establish residence in this country after suffering traumatic situations in their home countries. Before going to law school, I also shadowed public defenders. One day I went back in the county jail and met a young girl, about 15 years old, who was charged with making meth with a male about 20 years old. She struck me as a girl who may have made a bad choice as to who she became friends with but if given the opportunity she would make better choices.

I am excited about the work I will do this summer with Alabama Appleseed. The major project I will be working on is to set the groundwork for a heir property project to help individuals gain clear title to their land. Heir property is property that automatically goes to a deceased person’s heirs when the deceased person did not provide for the ownership of the property in a will. Although there might be numerous heirs to a property, often only one heir is using the property. In fact, many of the heirs are probably not aware of their interest in the property. The main issue with heir property is that the property cannot be used in a way as it could with clear title. For example, the property cannot be leased or financed without the consent of all the heirs to the property. In addition, the heir property owner using the land can be forced to leave if others with an interest in the property bring a judicial partition action. This often happens when the heirs who are not using the land sell their interest to a non-family member.

Resolving heir property issues is particularly difficult for people who do not have access to legal assistance. Alabama Appleseed’s goal is to create resources that will help volunteer attorneys and law students navigate the hurdles individuals face when seeking clear title to their land.

Other projects I look forward to working on this summer include researching barriers to justice and policies that feed Alabama’s school-to-prison pipeline. I am very excited to be working on these projects because I know it will make a difference in the lives of individuals finding themselves in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. I chose to intern with Alabama Appleseed because the organization is effective at advocating for just policy for Alabama residents. I look forward to furthering Appleseed’s work this summer!