Carrying the weight of a broken system

How easy would it be for J to turn her struggles into excuses? To allow her behavior and her morals to slip? To slide from frustration into complacency? How simple it could be–to write off a broken system and turn her back on her goals.

Somehow, the spark remains in J’s eyes, the gleam. And after our first interview, it’s clear that it remains in her heart.

The group found out more pieces of the puzzle. More than anything, J’s problems stem from her older brother’s arrest a few years ago for attempted murder, the beginning of her family’s unravelling, an arrest that J firmly believes was unwarranted. She recalled going to court and realizing the evidence wasn’t present; the details didn’t add up. J doesn’t believe that her brother even left his apartment that night, let alone drove his van into an elderly gentleman.

Her brother was sentenced to 30 years in prison, though the victim only suffered minor bruises from the incident. He’s serving his time in Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois, notable for also housing John Wayne Gacy and Drew Peterson. Every question we asked J brought us back to her brother, and we quickly realized he was her sole motivation. 

Our group was left to wonder if J was right. Did her brother get set up? Did the police railroad him because he was an illegal immigrant? Did they beat a confession out of him as J’s brother told her they did?

We had more questions than answers and didn’t even have a clear goal of what we were going for with the story. No longer was this a plea for reform for immigrants. J’s story weighed so heavily that it didn’t have a clear direction. The story was simply really sad. We felt bad for J and we respected her perseverance, but as journalists, what angle would we take?

Through our uncertainty, we were confident that J has guts–she’s

We discussed this in the following audio, comparing J’s experiences to our own before trying to settle on an idea for this piece.

How do J’s struggles compare to your own? How would you have handled these types of problems when you were a sophomore? Please tweet your answers along with the #precipice to @cullinational.

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