By Jim Graves, Internship Coordinator
Criminal justice is Norwich’s most popular major, so it is not surprising that it is also our most popular field for internships. According to the Norwich Career and Internship Center, criminal justice students make up approximately 20% of all recorded internships each semester. In 2015, 22 criminal justice students completed internships. Many students choose to take CJ 405, the criminal justice internship course, where they are able to make real contributions to their host organizations.
According to Professor Stan Shernock, Director of the School of Justice Studies and Sociology and CJ 405 instructor, the purpose of the course is to provide a structured learning experience in a criminal justice agency. This includes law enforcement, courts and legal services, corrections, human service, and other justice-related agencies. CJ 405 currently has six students enrolled and interning at the following organizations: The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Barre Probation and Parole, the Vermont Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security, the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the District of Vermont, and the Barre City Police Department.
Students work on real projects that benefit their organization. Nick Leapley ’18 is currently interning with the Williston office of the DEA. His project will be to improve the organization’s method for storing non-drug evidence. Items like cell phones, cash, and documents related to cases are often simply left in a storage room. Leapley will meticulously organize these items in relation to DHS cases.
At the Vermont Department of Public Safety, Danielle Hamilton ’18 will be creating the training schedule for all emergency responders throughout the state as well as overseeing the training database. According to her supervisor, Vermont Homeland Security Training Coordinator Kimmie Cruickshank, Danielle has been invaluable to their offices’ mission and Vermont’s training exercise process.
The Vermont Federal Public Defender’s Office in Burlington represents people facing charges in federal court. As their intern this fall, Sophia Buono ’17 has accompanied their investigator to meet with a bank robbery suspect at the Swanton Corrections Facility. She has accompanied him to defendants’ homes. Kevin Ridgely, Federal Investigator for the Federal Public Defender’s Office, said Buono often summarizes police testimony in court for him when he is not able to attend himself. Her primary project will be to research the accuracy of police dogs throughout the state in order to establish a rating on their credibility in court. Her findings will actually be used in court.
Barre City Police currently has two students working on a community resources project. Under the supervision of Barre City Police Chief Tim Bombardier, CJ students Anthony Bue ’17 and Jacob Boylan ’17 are designing and implementing a survey to send to community service organizations. Along with in-person interviews with the agencies, their goal is to create a document that will be available at the department for people seeking services within their community.
Besides completing at least 120 hours of work at their internship sites (about 10 hours/week in the typical semester), the students in this three-credit internship course meet as a group four times during the semester to share their experiences with their classmates. Students are required to write a learning contract during the first two weeks of the semester that outlines their goals and methods for learning. This contract is signed by the student, the site host, and the instructor. Professor Shernock has been the advisor for CJ 405 for the last 15 years. Prior to him, it was overseen by Professors Max Schlueter and William Clements. For the last four years, Norwich’s internship coordinator, Jim Graves, has worked with Professor Shernock by attending the class meetings and going to the internship sites and meeting in person mid-way through the semester with the students and their supervisors.
While students are encouraged to complete a project that directly benefits their organizations, they are also given a choice of an alternative assignment that could involve either task environment analysis or values and ethics. The course requires that students apply their accrued knowledge of the criminal justice system through a series of supervised experiences designed to further understanding of criminal justice in action. Emphasis is placed on study and understanding of the psychological, organizational, ethical, political, and policy dimensions of criminal justice practice. Criminal justice internships are open only to CJ majors of junior or senior standing and to CJ minors (with permission of the instructor).