Our class of 2021 really are something to shout about. They’ve overcome challenges, helped others, grasped opportunities and developed their skills, showing their Essex Spirit in so many ways. And they’ve done it all during a pandemic when student life has been changed beyond recognition. We couldn’t be prouder of them so we’re telling their stories.
Tue 13 Jul 21
Little did she realise that when she embarked on her BA Criminology and Social Psychology degree Alisha Kaur would be helping to defend the rights of prisoners on Death Row.
Along with other students working in the Human Rights Centre Clinic’s Death Penalty Sentencing Mitigation Unit, Alisha gained valuable skills helping to piece together the complex life stories of prisoners facing capital punishment around the world.
For Alisha, whose keen interest in crime stemmed from watching murder and detective shows on TV, being involved in gathering evidence for real and current cases was a dream come true.
“Working with the Unit has been the most amazing experience ever and I have gained many useful skills which will aid me in my future.
“There was one particular case that stood out a lot as it was based on an individual around my age. It was just shocking to see how they were being treated, and how rules and regulations differ on a huge scale in other countries compared to the UK,” she said.
The Unit looks into two or three cases a year, with students carrying out a range of tasks including interviewing clients, analysing media reporting and conducting research on life histories. The aim is to provide the courts with additional information and any mitigating factors that may have contributed to an individual’s offending.
"The most rewarding thing about working at the Death Penalty Sentencing Mitigation Unit definitely has to be the happiness gained from helping out individuals facing the death penalty and knowing that I have aided in helping their cases."
The biggest challenges were juggling her responsibilities with studying, and not having a legal background: “I felt it was sometimes quite hard to analyse some of the records as I did not want to make any mistakes as it was actual people’s lives on the line.” She cites her lecturers’ support with helping her to succeed.
Another case that stood out for Alisha was that of a woman on Death Row in America. “I have been working on this case alongside two of my teammates. It has recently been in the news, but through all the research, investigation and analysis we have done I have seen a completely different side to the case, that has not been portrayed in the media and online. It is just shocking to see how cases portrayed in the media can be so different to how they actually are.
“The most rewarding thing about working at the Unit definitely has to be the happiness gained from helping out the individuals facing the death penalty and knowing that I have aided in helping their cases,” she said.
Alisha believes the experience of working within the Unit has provided her with valuable skills which will help her get a job, including communication skills, teamwork, dealing with and analysing client records, and managing workloads.
Now she has completed her studies, Alisha is planning to do some voluntary work with young people in Hackney, London. But she is also busy applying for various graduate schemes and hopes to work with a human rights organisation or law firm.