PKG Social Impact Internships: Richter Jordaan (’23)
Applying Tech to Real-World Challenges
My name is Richter Jordaan and I’m a sophomore from Denver, Colorado studying math and computer science. Over this IAP period I worked in data analytics for the Massachusetts Trial Court in the Office of Community Corrections, which is a department within the Probation Service that reduces use of jail and prison by delivering community-based interventions designed to promote return to court and reduce recidivism. Over the course of this internship, I worked to develop an Oracle Express Application system to collect, organize, and analyze court data throughout the Community Corrections Center program sites.
Before this internship, my perception of coding and working in data analytics was that these topics, while relevant in academic coursework and certainly powerful tools in themselves, seemed removed from real-world applications, and certainly any connection between these academic principles and broader social issues were indiscernible to me. Partly because I have few previous internship experiences, and also because the types of questions posed by class problem sets often feel esoteric, I didn’t realize that even my basic level of programming experience could be used to solve real-world problems and support organizations that are working towards positive social objectives, like the Office of Community Corrections. Even though my individual contribution is miniscule in the scope of the OCC’s work as a whole, making a positive contribution to this organization is deeply rewarding, and reaffirmed the importance of perceiving programming in a broader social context.
In this internship, I worked on coding a system that would help collate and analyze data for the various community corrections center program sites to streamline the data collection process for these centers in order to facilitate the data analytics used to inform practices and efficacy metrics of the program. Despite playing a very small role in this organization, I was overwhelmed by the degree of support that I received not only from my host supervisor, but also the Community Corrections team as a whole. For example, whenever I got stuck on a bug in the coding process or had questions about how a feature should be implemented, other team members immediately reached out to offer suggestions and feedback with enthusiasm and helpful insights, despite having their own projects to complete and despite the difficulties posed by a virtual workplace.
I am grateful for this internship opportunity because in the process of working on my coding and data analysis, I learned more about the important work that the Community Corrections Centers are doing. Through their programs, including cognitive behavioral treatment, education, and employment support, the organization works to reduce the use of prison and jail, eliminating the concomitant social, family, and economic disruption caused by physical confinement, resulting in safer, stronger communities. I would not have otherwise been aware of the Office of Community Corrections, and working alongside their team members has provided me with the opportunity to become more informed about efforts to redress issues like mass incarceration and prejudice within the criminal justice system, in Massachusetts and more generally.
In addition, this internship has allowed me to meaningfully grapple with my own role and responsibilities in these complex social issues, as well as how I can further support important organizations like the OCC in the future. Accordingly, I plan to seek further opportunities to utilize computational thinking in efforts to promote social good in the future. After all, computer science does not exist in a vacuum, and a more critical examination of the relationship between computation and broader society is the first step towards leveraging it for positive social change.
Overall, I am extremely grateful to both the PKG center as well as the Office of Community Corrections for the opportunity to participate in this internship. I look forward to following and supporting the OCC’s work and I will take the lessons I learned from this internship with me in my future studies.
Want to learn more about the PKG Social Impact Internships Program? Visit our webpage to learn about ELO opportunities for Spring 2021, and stay tuned for information for summer 2021 postings!