The Latest from CLIP!

by Matthew Hannah, Criminal Law Internship Program Supervisor

Welcome Back to the CLIP Blog!

So far in 2017, the Criminal Law Internship Program here at PDSDC has had six stellar classes across our two sessions (Winter/Spring and Summer), that included over 100 students from all over the country. Our Interns helped support and work cases across several divisions within our office, including Trial, Parole, Civil and Special Litigations. Our Interns from 2017, whether they have already completed their 12-week session or are currently working now, all continue to carry out the PDS mission of zealously representing clients.

We had several events and presentations throughout the year as well. Interns had an opportunity to tour the US Capitol, as well as a presentation at PDSDC put on by the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office. We continued our tradition of hosting a Summer Cookout at Hains Point, on top off a Spring Intern Appreciation Party and Trivia Night. See below for a Summer group photo:


CLIP Summer Sessions Group Photo (6/29/17)


I typically like to include actual Intern experiences in the CLIP Blog, so what better way to fulfill this than having a guest Intern blogger. One of our Summer 2017 Interns, Andrew, was required to blog about his internship experience by his University. Let’s see what Andrew had to say in his final blog post about his time at PDSDC and as an Intern through CLIP. Thanks for your help, Andrew!


2017 Intern Blog Post

Are you interested in an investigative internship at PDS? Do it. If you’re thinking of going into law and want an experience that requires you to think on your feet, this internship is for you.

Is there anything I wish I knew at the beginning? Not really – this experience was a process that had to happen to me in due time. I’ve seen things, I’ve heard things, and I’ve felt things that I would have never expected. This summer I was born like a giraffe – dropped straight to the ground and quickly taught how to stand. That isn't to say there isn't training - we're taught from the very beginning how to take statements, serve subpoenas, etc. But the advice I would give to someone pursuing an opportunity at PDS is related: expect the unexpected. Sure, it’s also good to read up on the criminal justice system, the lifetime of a case, etc., but ultimately there’s no real way to prepare for intensive experience that is the criminal law internship at PDS.

In terms of social justice, my eyes have been pried so far open I’ve been blinded by the sunlight, so to speak. I’ve seen poverty–real, awful poverty–right here in DC. Like the kind of poverty where children don’t have mattresses to sleep on, where flakes of paint containing lead regularly chip off the walls, and where corn flakes are for dinner without debate. I’ve seen segregation, both by race and class – segregation so stark it makes you cringe, segregation so stark that you question whether the era of Jim Crow already ended. Within DC in particular the disparity could not be more obvious. In certain neighborhoods in the Northwest quadrant, you see enormous mansions, and white people predominate. It’s rare that you seen a black person. Cross the Anacostia River south and that world flips on its head: everyone is black, the poverty rate and crime rates skyrocket, and life-expectancy nearly cuts in half. It’s a sad, sad reality.

I’ve also learned about the horrors that constitute our jails and prisons. I’ve spoken to inmates, listened to jail calls, and heard less-than-flattering stories – stories you can only laugh at or else you’ll cry. I’ve seen autopsy reports, crime scene photos; gruesome, sickening wounds no one should ever have.

Most of all, I’ve learned firsthand about the systemic cycle of injustice that the invisible people of our communities continue to endure, even now, into the 21st century.

Whatever I end up doing, my career must involve helping these neglected people. That I know for certain. Often in their darkest hour, just charged with a crime, I want to be there to affirm to clients of a public defender office: You are not alone. Someone cares about you.

That brings me to the Free Minds Book Club. If nothing else, look them up and see the incredible work they do. Free Minds is an organization that facilitates the reading of books and writing of poetry by juveniles who are charged as adults (usually for a severe crime) and incarcerated in jail or prison. It turns out writing is a powerful, powerful medium for people to express themselves. Free Minds came to our office this week, and we got the opportunity to offer compliments and feedback on inmates’ poems. It was moving to read the poems of incarcerated children – to see them reach such depth and become so vulnerable for the strangers who they knew would read their poems.

In closing, I thank you for reading. This summer has been a whirlwind. If you’re thinking about law, intern at PDS.

The CLIP Blog is here to answer any questions you (future CLIP applicant), may have. The CLIP Blog will feature guest writers and topic discussions, similar to a mailbag format.

Feel free to contact the Internship Office ([email protected]) with any questions. Apply for CLIP online here:

Thanks for reading the CLIP Blog and I hope to review your application in the near future!


Matthew Hanna
Criminal Law Internship Program Supervisor
Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
633 Indiana Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 824-2375
(202) 824-2101 (fax)