A Change in Plans

The Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission (MHRC) is an organization that takes an interdisciplinary approach to violence in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Going into this internship I was expecting to go into correctional facilities as an agent of the commission to talk to perpetrators and victims of violent crime; however, I hit a roadblock when we could not gain access per review of Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections. We thus had to resort to Plan B, which ended up being perhaps more influential in regards to my career interest than Plan A may have been.

Starting mid-early July, after a month or so of time shadowing MHRC Director Mallory O’Brien while she led homicide, sexual assault, and non-fatal shooting reviews – meetings which gave the commission their name and include a melting pot of professionals ranging from law enforcement, district attorneys, social workers, etc. – I began to shadow and interview other professionals in the Milwaukee area whose occupations, in one way or the other, have ties to violent crime. The list is long, but essential to my experience: assistant district attorney, district attorney/prosecutor, public defender, community liaison, probation and parole agent, Regional Chief of Wisconsin’s Divisions of Juvenile Corrections, and a Milwaukee police officer.

Dissecting different perspectives of violence in Milwaukee not only helped me better comprehend the criminal justice system in its chaos, but it also gave me personal introductions to what these professions entail, be it day-to-day tasks, general opinions toward contemporary issues, or even confidential gossip regarding department management.

My time spent with the public defender, a woman with a renowned reputation to fully and completely challenge her fellow prosecutors every time she steps in court, inspired me most. As of now, law school is now my ultimate goal post graduation.

Although I cannot reveal in detail what she told me during our time together (and I must admit she did not singe-handedly inspire me to seek a path in law, although she did play a large hand), her stories of the children and teenagers she defends who never had true opportunity in their life and have been or are currently being punished with time in Wisconsin’s now well-known corrupted facilities, was the shining moment of my internship. I would be honored to do the work she does.

Written by Jonathan Leuthner, BC Class of 2017

Everyone has a Story

As a Sociology major and American Studies minor at Boston College I have taken a wide range of interdisciplinary courses. These courses – ranging from a basic Introduction to Sociology class to more intricate classes like Inequality in America or African World Perspectives – have certainly expanded my general knowledge of global realities, varying perspectives among those who study these realities, and concrete ways to study societal issues and develop theories surrounding their existence and possible solutions.

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This summer I am an intern at the Milwaukee Health Department and working closely with the head coordinators of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission. As an agent of the commission, I will be going into a correctional facility and interviewing inmates who are locked up for either a gun offense or auto theft – both phenomena that have increased dramatically in Milwaukee over the past year.

My position is not to pry information from the offender; rather, I see myself as their friend who hopes to, through conversation, get to the core of the issue of the high crime rate in Milwaukee, a city plagued by socioeconomic and racial inequality and recently named the worst city to live in if you are a black American. My classes and teachers in the Sociology Department have repeatedly taught me that there are infinite factors that play into societal issues such as these, so I am more encouraged than ever to lead this project that hopes to give marginalized populations a voice.

The main “edge” BC has given me is confidence. Having grown close to teachers renowned in their respective arenas of study, what I have noticed is that even experts struggle from time to time, not just in their fields of study, but with everyday problems that face us all. It has taught me that all of us humans are incredibly fallible – something that gives me confidence to not fear mistakes and also, for my internship specifically, realize that no person is better than another. I will never look at a man or woman behind bars as a “criminal.” We must hear each person’s whole story.

Written by Jonathan Leuthner, BC Class of 2017