Alexis Puz is a criminal justice major who recently completed an internship at the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office in Fairfax, VA.
Each day of my internship brought something new and exciting to the table. Because I worked in the jail, in the courts, and in civil enforcement, I saw many different sides of the criminal justice field.
On days that I worked in the jail, I processed inmates into the system, created a pin number for them, and sealed their property and monetary funds. That was very interesting for me—seeing the facial expressions and body language of each person coming in was intriguing. I also did observation logs and spent time in the mental health division. Fairfax has programs for its inmates such as AA and parenting and GED courses. I believe if we truly want to help inmates be successful in society when they are released, those are the things that prison systems need to offer, so that was great to see.
When I worked in Courts, I was often given responsibility as a radio operator, so I did things like lock and unlock courtroom doors via computer and place service calls. We also did pat-down searches and there was one medical emergency call.
Working in civil enforcement, I helped serve subpoenas, and I observed as arrest warrants were served. Some of the deputies used our time together to essentially train me by asking questions. For example, we’d be on the road in a cruiser, and one would ask something like, ‘alright, say I want to pull over this car. What's my probable cause’ and things like that.
The work itself was fun, and I was able to see first-hand what I’ve been learning about in class and reading in textbooks, but my favorite part of the internship was just talking to people and hearing the stories they had to tell. I worked with people of every age group, and they had great insight into what to expect in the criminal justice field—how to handle specific issues and problems, how to deal with inmates. I especially loved talking with the older people there, listening to their experiences and how things have changed in the field over the years. I heard about mistakes they made, what they learned from them, and how they could have done things differently. I filed a lot of that information away so I can one day avoid the same mistakes.
I learned a lot of practical things through this internship, like how to keep track of officer rankings and how to address those officers along with how to communicate properly with judges, deputies, and inmates. But more importantly, I learned a lot about myself. I know that I grew as a person from doing this internship. There are things I found more difficult than I thought I would, such as dealing with inmates who have mental health issues. Those situations hit me really hard, so I know I need to work on finding the right emotional balance to do the job.
I’m very excited about my future. My ultimate goal is to get into the federal system, and I feel very prepared thanks to my classes at Penn State Altoona and my internship experience.
To learn more about internships, please contact Tom Shaffer, academic internship coordinator, at [email protected] or 814-949-5789.