When it comes to young people in the U.S. justice system, there are major issues to address. Many people consider incarceration an overly harsh punishment for most kids. There are racial and ethnic disparities in the youth justice system. And the conditions for children in custody at most detention facilities are concerning.
Armed with an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, Cambre Roberts came to law school at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law to craft a career that addresses those problems and to create a better youth justice system.
“I knew I wanted to work on justice system reform, and I also knew that I wanted to focus on working with youth to bring about change,” said Roberts, who will begin her third year of law school in August.
Roberts is currently interning at the Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP) in Washington D.C., working towards the changes she is passionate about.
The College of Law is committed to providing students with opportunities that align with their legal interests. Roberts worked with career counselor Jaclyn Howell and the Career Development Office to attend a career fair in Washington, D.C. that led to a summer internship opportunity.
According to Roberts, each work day at the Center for Children’s Law and Policy is different. On any given day, she could be conducting legal research and writing, working with community advocates, touring youth facilities, or attending summits and conferences.
“This is the area I want to go into, and I am not only making amazing connections in the field, but I am also getting to see and experience what doing this work could look like as a career,” Roberts said.
Even though interfacing with the harsh realities of the youth justice system can be difficult, Roberts said the positive work the CCLP is doing gives her hope.
“I am working with a group of folks who work day-in and day-out to bring about positive change,” she said. “And the people who seek out the help of our office to make changes in their jurisdictions give me optimism and hope that by working together on reforms, we can improve outcomes for kids.”
Her work at the CCLP has further cemented Roberts’ plans to work in the field of youth justice in the future.
“What has been the most important lesson, so far, is how important this kind of work is to me and how passionate I continue to be about it,” Roberts said. “Even when it’s difficult, I can’t see myself going into a different focus area.”