Justice in NYC: A Conversation with Pietro and Meagan

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Release Date: 
Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Meagan, our South Carolina VISTA member spoke to Pietro, one of our New York City VISTA members. They talked about the challenges of COVID, learning about the criminal justice system, and how they’ll leverage this experience in the future.

Meagan: What made you join the VISTA program?

Pietro: I really wanted to get a taste of the legal world. As a person of faith, I’ve always wanted to serve the underserved, working for a more just society. The law was always something I’d mulled over but never experienced. VISTA seemed like a perfect way to both have a short-term experience and be in direct service for the time.

M: What are some things you’ve accomplished while being a VISTA?

P: I’ve created new partnerships for Books Beyond Bars that have provided us new streams of reading materials and volunteers.

M: What are some challenges you’ve faced at your office, if any?

P: COVID! Just like everyone else. Basically, not being able to be in the office, particularly with the nature of my work shipping books.

M: Has your outlook on the Criminal Justice system changed since becoming a VISTA? If so how?

P: Good question. Not really, frankly. I’m more aware of the intricacies now and perhaps more familiar with legal language, but the big picture remains the same. What has changed a bit, however, is my understanding of the actors in this field. I always knew of certain advocacy organizations, movements, and legal offices, but didn’t have a solid understanding of their roots and how they interplayed. I’m now learning that more. Sometimes it’s inspiring – seeing people really self-sacrifice and commit intensely. Other times I’m disillusioned by what I see as talking-point repetition, even from the advocacy side, and just going through the motions.

M: What are your plans after this year is over?

P: I would love to get back into the religious world. Specifically, I’d like to get back to research, studying various religious movements, especially religious political movements.

M: What was your background in before this?

P: I have a master’s in theology, specializing in sociology of religion. I studied Catholic social justice organizations and their members’ knowledge of Catholic Social Teaching. It’s definitely something I’d like to get back to.

M: What is your favorite part of VISTA service?

P: Speaking with everyone in the office! Everyone has been wonderful teachers and enormously encouraging.

M: What have you learned since becoming a VISTA?

P: Like mentioned before, I’ve learned quite a bit about the players in the criminal social justice movement, something that was totally novel to me prior to starting. I’ve also learned a great deal about the logistical intricacies of prison life that I hadn’t quite processed as so burdensome, particularly technology issues as simple as email.