I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

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smashingrobface
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I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby smashingrobface » Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:27 am

Hey gang. I just finished my first draft. It feels... I don't know, cursory? I suspect the opening paragraph takes up too much space. I'm also unhappy with the ending, so any advice there is much appreciated.

As you'll note, I've omitted my institution's name here.

Thanks in advance!

---------------------

Between the batting cages and the poultry wholesaler squat a pair of orange brick highrises in a square of chewed-up asphalt. Their slender windows, spaced evenly in otherwise featureless walls, are tinted to discourage curious eyes. These buildings are as obtuse, solid, and dull as eggs. Only the lone guard lazing through a crossword in the curbside hut suggests anything noteworthy inside. Indeed, most local residents are surprised to learn that roughly 3,000 of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ estimated 217,690 inmates live in their neighborhood. I spend forty hours a week among these men and women, each of whom--like their undesired residence--is a testament to the humanity that our assumptions often obscure.

The inmates call me “Library Man.” As a member of <A PRISON>'s education department, I oversee a mobile leisure library, traveling from housing unit to housing unit to loan out books and collect handwritten requests. Most days, my job is easy. To the crushingly bored and anxious prison populace, the service a staffer provides becomes his identity. This is how staffers earn respect: By representing something more specific than authority. Establishing myself within this unique environment, however, was a trial that challenged my attitudes toward the justice system as a whole.

Having--like most of society--previously preferred to think of inmates as a monolithic, featureless criminal bloc, I was surprised to find the population at <THE BIG HOUSE> to be as diverse and vibrant as the city in which it stands. The facility is unusual in that it houses mostly pre-trial inmates who, having not yet been sentenced, cannot be applied a security designation and thus are not separated. Latin King enforcers mingle with video pirates. Those facing death row play dominoes with those waiting for the judge to free them on served time.

How was an upper-middle class suburban Georgia transplant to react to such a startling and unlikely mixture? By hardening into an artificial authority, stern-faced and detached, in the mutual interests of fairness and security. The cannier inmates saw through the act immediately, and for several weeks fast mouths challenged my mettle at every turn.

No easy answer came; no light bulb snapped to life over my head. Eventually, I simply got tired of fighting to maintain a facade that wasn’t getting my anywhere, and stopped. I was surprised to find that when I relaxed my front, the inmates reciprocated. Our became civil. Personalities emerged, allowing for greater cooperation. I accomplished more, reforming the mobile library program, establishing guidelines for correspondence courses, and organizing GED tutorships on several housing units.

Working in a prison is a daily reminder that the giant oblique laws under which we all labor have real consequences for real people, and as such must be approached with an interest in the individual. My interest in criminal law, then, is really an interest in human beings--in the truth behind the numbers, the rulings, the labels we all believe we must wear. During my initial struggles at <THE JOINT>, defensiveness and generalization were the enemy. The solution was humanity. That’s a lesson I intend to carry with me as I study law.

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fatduck
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby fatduck » Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:30 am

i'll let the pros tackle your prose, but i suspect you may be trying too hard.



i like the topic, though.

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JamMasterJ
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby JamMasterJ » Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:35 am

Pretty solid overall, and a good "why law," though I think some of it's a little wordy.
In the second to last paragraph, you wrote "our became civil." I think you mistyped.

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CorkBoard
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby CorkBoard » Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:32 am

Solid topic. Very unique.

I think it could be edited/shortened and you could use a little more explanation about why you want to study law though. The ending is too abrupt, IMO.

CanadianWolf
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:42 am

As noted above, your word choices suggest that you're trying too hard. Nevertheless, your message is clear & convincing, though not powerful.

"Unique" is overused & usually misused. How is this prison environment "unique" compared to other federal prisons ? I doubt that it is, but, if it is, you need to share what makes it unique.

Your use of the word "oblique" in the final paragraph is awkward & disruptive. Do you mean "pervasive laws" ?

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El_Sol
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby El_Sol » Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:46 am

CanadianWolf wrote:As noted above, your word choices suggest that you're trying too hard. Nevertheless, your message is clear & convincing, though not powerful.

"Unique" is overused & usually misused. How is this prison environment "unique" compared to other federal prisons ? I doubt that it is, but, if it is, you need to share what makes it unique.


I disagree. It is unique compared to other law school applicants, and also powerful. Good job, and good luck!

CanadianWolf
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:50 am

@El-Sol: I think that you misunderstood my comment regarding OP's use of the word "unique" in his essay. How is this a "unique environment" compared to other prison environments is the issue.

Also, many prison guards & administrators attend law school so this circumstance is not unique either.

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CorkBoard
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby CorkBoard » Wed Jul 18, 2012 12:58 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:@El-Sol: I think that you misunderstood my comment regarding OP's use of the word "unique" in his essay. How is this a "unique environment" compared to other prison environments is the issue.

Also, many prison guards & administrators attend law school so this circumstance is not unique either.

I think OP was stating that this environment is unique in the sense that it's not really an average job/work environment.

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smashingrobface
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby smashingrobface » Wed Jul 18, 2012 3:58 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Also, many prison guards & administrators attend law school so this circumstance is not unique either.


Huh. I was unaware that was common. Interesting. I guess "unique" isn't really accurate, then. Thanks.

The wordiness, yeah. I used to have a bad Faulkner habit and it straight messed me up. Usually I'm able to iron it out in a few drafts. Thanks, everybody. Back to work.

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smashingrobface
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby smashingrobface » Wed Jul 18, 2012 3:59 pm

CorkBoard wrote:I think OP was stating that this environment is unique in the sense that it's not really an average job/work environment.


This is what I meant, but I do agree that "unique" isn't a great word choice.

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CorkBoard
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby CorkBoard » Wed Jul 18, 2012 4:25 pm

smashingrobface wrote:
CanadianWolf wrote:Also, many prison guards & administrators attend law school so this circumstance is not unique either.


Huh. I was unaware that was common.

It's not.

CanadianWolf
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Jul 18, 2012 4:42 pm

Not common, but certainly not "unique".

The definition of "unique" is being the only one of its kind; single; sole.
Also, being without equal; unparalleled. From Webster's Pocket Dictionary.

JetsFan1990
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby JetsFan1990 » Wed Jul 18, 2012 4:48 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Not common, but certainly not "unique".

The definition of "unique" is being the only one of its kind; single; sole.
Also, being without equal; unparalleled. From Webster's Pocket Dictionary.


Oh, get over it, breh. This is a cool topic. I agree that it gets a little wordy in areas, but overall on the right track.

CanadianWolf
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Jul 18, 2012 4:53 pm

Yeah, you're right, words aren't important in the legal field. :lol:

hurldes
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby hurldes » Wed Jul 18, 2012 4:54 pm

I think the intro is fantastic. In the first paragraph, I would just say, "Indeed, most local residents are surprised to learn that roughly 3,000 inmates live in their neighborhood." That would cut down on a few words.

Also, it would be neat if you could illustrate your shift from rigid and artificial to relaxed and genuine with an actual experience... like an interaction that you had with one of the inmates. But, I understand that this could be tough to do in 2 pages.

Maybe a replacement word for "unique" in the last sentence of the second paragraph could just be "new," because it was new to you...

CanadianWolf
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Jul 18, 2012 4:57 pm

I think that "unusual" is a more appropriate word than "unique" when describing the environment. "Challenging environment" is another option.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JetsFan1990
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby JetsFan1990 » Wed Jul 18, 2012 4:59 pm

Sorry, hadn't read your earlier comment, CanadianWolf. I see your point. I still think OP meant "unique" as in unique to an average job, surroundings, etc. (which obviously needs no further explaining.)

OP, perhaps a better solution might be clearing up this ambiguity altogether.

delusional
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby delusional » Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:40 pm

I agree with some of the posters above. It's a very compelling and plausible topic, but you mitigate that by using big words and trying to be literary.

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Ruxin1
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby Ruxin1 » Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:44 pm

This is one out of the past 25 PS on TLS of late that is actually pretty good.

bobbyh1919
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby bobbyh1919 » Wed Jul 18, 2012 6:16 pm

I liked this overall. Right from the first sentence I felt you were trying too hard with the wordiness, as others have mentioned. You should also expand more on the Why Law section. While I understand what you're saying, your goal should be to really drive it home to the reader.

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CorkBoard
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby CorkBoard » Wed Jul 18, 2012 6:59 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Yeah, you're right, words aren't important in the legal field. :lol:

Let it go, bro.

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smashingrobface
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby smashingrobface » Thu Jul 19, 2012 9:53 am

hurldes wrote:Also, it would be neat if you could illustrate your shift from rigid and artificial to relaxed and genuine with an actual experience... like an interaction that you had with one of the inmates. But, I understand that this could be tough to do in 2 pages.


I agree. My original plan was to relate one particularly illustrative experience, but I had a really hard time fitting enough contextual information so that the story made sense to the uninitiated, the story itself, and a "Why Law" conclusion into two pages without feeling like one of the three was suffering. The current version represents a compromise that I'm willing to live with.

Thanks for the support and the advice, guys. Toiling away on revision now, with an eye on threading the "Why Law" throughout so that the conclusion feels better-supported.

tigershark
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby tigershark » Thu Jul 19, 2012 2:09 pm

Good topic but I would seriously tone down the adjectives. And be careful of using synonyms to describe the same thing (see: obtuse and dull as eggs).

dixon02
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby dixon02 » Thu Jul 19, 2012 2:20 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Not common, but certainly not "unique".

The definition of "unique" is being the only one of its kind; single; sole.
Also, being without equal; unparalleled. From Webster's Pocket Dictionary.


u·nique   [yoo-neek]
adjective
1. existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics: a unique copy of an ancient manuscript.
2. having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable: Bach was unique in his handling of counterpoint.
3. limited in occurrence to a given class, situation, or area: a species unique to Australia.
4. limited to a single outcome or result; without alternative possibilities: Certain types of problems have unique solutions.
5. not typical; unusual: She has a very unique smile.

Words can have more than one meaning.

ajaxconstructions
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Re: I work in a prison. I wrote a PS about it. Thoughts?

Postby ajaxconstructions » Thu Jul 19, 2012 2:23 pm

Ignore Canadian, he's a moron.




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