Published on November 17, 2022 by Morgan Black
Cumberland School of Law’s Externship Program provides opportunities for students to work with skilled lawyers and judges and apply what they are learning in the classroom. During the fall 2022 semester, Cumberland students had the opportunity to experience firsthand the important and humbling task of helping incarcerated individuals be granted parole through a partnership with Alabama-based nonprofit, Redemption Earned.
According to Redemption Earned, Alabama’s correctional institutions house over 2,200 incarcerated persons over the age of 65 who present a low risk of recidivism. Their organization believes that these individuals, especially those who are aged and infirm, deserve the grace and care of basic human dignity by being released from prison. Redemption Earned works to identify, assist and represent those individuals who have spent decades behind bars, demonstrating they are transformed and earned the right to parole.
Former Supreme Court of Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, founder and executive director of Redemption Earned, said, “People who are capable of committing horrible crimes are also capable of being redeemed. After they have spent multiple decades in prison working on their redemption, they deserve a meaningful opportunity to earn their freedom.”
Over the course of the semester, Cumberland students Arin Suggs, Miles Turney and Lauren Wasley, along with two students from the University of Alabama School of Law, worked with Justice Cobb and the Redemption Earned staff to assist aged and infirm individuals who are currently incarcerated in Alabama correctional institutions to gain parole. In November, the students gathered for a mock parole hearing in Cumberland School of Law’s Hare Wynn Courtroom to present arguments for their clients whom they met with over the last few months. The mock parole board included Justice Cobb; Pulitzer prize winning journalist John Archibald, who has a passion for the mission of Redemption Earned; and Brandon Blankenship, prelaw director at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s College of Arts and Sciences Department of Criminal Justice.
Following their arguments before the mock parole board, second-year student Arin Suggs said, “Working with Redemption Earned has been a life-changing opportunity. Before this experience, I was aware of the struggles incarcerated people faced, but now I can see beyond statistics; I see the humanity in the people we serve and how deserving they are of a second chance. When I began this semester, I never anticipated that I would find an organization I would spend the rest of my career volunteering with, but that's exactly what I've found in Redemption Earned. Externships like this are a big part of why I chose to attend Cumberland, and I'm so grateful for the chance to serve alongside my fellow classmates and the staff at Redemption Earned.”
Justice Cobb added, "The need for pro bono representation is so great. If it were not for Cumberland School of Law's outstanding student externs, I am not sure what we would have done. Cumberland externs visited our clients in prison, obtained health and institutional records, crafted arguments they will make at future parole hearings, and researched a number of issues crucial to our success. Advocating for 'the least, the last, and the lost' can be a very meaningful experience. Redemption Earned staff and clients will be eternally grateful for their hard work this semester. “
At Cumberland School of Law, work to help the lost does not end here. The law school’s service-oriented mission supports this work that will continue through programs such as its externship, clinic, public interest programs, and more.
Emily Bonds Davey, director of the Externship Program, said, “Our students learn best by doing and our externship program is a great way for them to get experience working in real-world situations. We are grateful for the partnership with Redemption Earned which allows the students to learn to become great advocates while helping our community, and we look forward to offering chances for our students to work with them each semester.”
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.