Gabrielle Masson

2019 recipient of the Audrey J. Harris Summer Internship Award


Interned with the WI State Public Defender’s Office – Investigative Services

I am a senior at UW-Madison graduating in August 2019, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and a certificate in Criminal Justice. Following graduation, I am moving to Chicago, where I will be working as a reporter for a medical review company. Eventually, I hope to work in death penalty mitigation.

This summer, I interned with the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office – Investigative Services. This position exposed me to numerous agencies in the criminal justice system, including the County Jail, the Madison Police Department, and the District Attorney’s office. This internship was extremely unique in its hands-on nature, exposing me directly to the criminal justice system. I interviewed clients and victims, served subpoenas, wrote investigative reports, visited clients in jail, went on-site in search of further information, discussed cases with attorneys, and attended court trials. The biggest shift in perspective I had was toward the so-called criminals we worked with. While many of our clients did commit crimes, my attitude towards those labelled as “criminals” changed. I believe our society likes to label certain people as criminals and then forget about them or consider them lesser than those not labelled as criminals. However, I have realized all alleged and convicted criminals are people first, and most don’t deserve to be labelled “criminal” before person. All our clients have families, feelings, past trauma, financial struggles, and genuinely care about their case and how it is handled. I wish everyone could have this exposure to the criminal justice system for numerous reasons, but mostly to humanize individuals involved in it.

Last summer, I volunteered at the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office in Baraboo, WI. The differences in space, resources, and client demographics compared to Madison are notable, however, both experiences have given me a confidence I will keep with me for the rest of my life. Both experiences challenged me, placing me in situations I never normally would be in, talking to people much different than me, and teaching me to hold myself in a manner that is both compassionate and professional. Everyone who works at the Public Defender’s has made me feel valued and like a member of the team, which has also given me the confidence to speak my opinion and trust myself.

I am very grateful to have been a recipient of the Audrey J. Harris Award. Without the award, I do not know if I would have been able to complete the Criminal Justice certificate and may have never had the opportunities I have been given this summer. By funding my internship at the Public Defender’s Office, the scholarship allowed me to learn and grow as both a student and a member of society. Thank you to the family of Audrey J. Harris for your investment in students such as myself. Your contribution to my education has really made all the difference.