TTU students win criminal justice reform award

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:11 PM CDT

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Three Texas Tech students won a “Volunteer of the Year” award for their work during their internship for criminal justice reform. Seniors Maria Cullum, Haleigh Albrecht and Kailyn Edestrand were the first Texas Tech students to intern for Unlocking Doors. The Texas nonprofit is committed to reducing crime and helping formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter society.

“They offer like, help with important identification documents, like your driver’s license and things you need to apply for work. And then also they’ll even, through donations and some of their fundraising, they’re able to get resources like work boots or tools that people might need to obtain jobs, ‘cause sometimes it’s required,” Edestrand said.

They were each given a set of clients and gathered data on their demographics, access to housing, employment, if they were rearrested, or needed more assistance. It’s data that will be used to inform law-making and better arrest policies.

“Like you can see a pattern, it’s usually kind of the same thing over and over again because they’re not getting the help, like they’re not getting the rehabilitation they need. They get stuck in what I want to say like a revolving door almost, because no one’s pulling them out of that revolving door and giving them a helping hand,” Cullum said.

The nonprofit honored them for their hard work with the “Jan Hart Black Volunteer of the Year” award. When they found out, all three knew who they wanted to call.

“I texted my mom like right away. I was like, you won’t believe this,” Cullum said.

A criminology, psychology and political science major all putting in their time so that others don’t have to again.

“Every person needs basic necessities, air, shelter, water, food. And when that is taken away from them, one little thing, one parental figure taken away, it just starts a spiral. And so how can we judge someone who didn’t have that at a young age, or didn’t have that growing up? How can we judge them for the things that they’ve done and not expect to help them? Like everyone deserves help,” Albrecht said.

These students set the bar so high, Unlocking Doors has already asked for another group of interns from Texas Tech.

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