The United States criminal justice system is a complex association between law enforcement agencies, the court system, and the correctional system. The criminal justice system as a whole encompasses primarily government agencies including law enforcement and the courts, as well as private institutions including incarceration centers and substance abuse treatment centers. Understanding the system will help you to decide where you want to focus your internship while working on your online master degree in criminal justice and ultimately where you will ideally begin your rewarding career as a criminal justice system professional.
The criminal justice system can be explained by following an offender’s path through the system from the time of their arrest, through their conviction, and ultimately to their participation in corrections and dismissal from court supervision. There are many job opportunities along the path the offender will take through the system, and we will examine some internship opportunities from the beginning to the end of the road of offender rehabilitation.
1. Law Enforcement Agencies:
The offender’s first contact with the system will be initiated by a member of law enforcement. Law enforcement includes federal law enforcement agencies, state, and local police, and county sheriff departments. Internships with law enforcement are available at the local level as well as the federal level. Working with the police while you finish your course of study can help you understand the roles of the law enforcement officer, and will help you to understand what this work will entail. Networking is also crucial in this branch of the system, as attaining a law enforcement job is very competitive and selective process.
Following arrest; an offender moves into the court system. Here the state will prosecute its case against the individual, and several players are involved. The offender will begin his journey through the court system with jail. Jails are the immediate destination after arrest before trial is scheduled. Due to the trending privatization of jails throughout the country, it may be possible to seek an internship as a civilian in one of these facilities. Municipal jails often hire civilians as well, hence another internship opportunity.
3. Public Defender’s Office:
After initial booking and pre-trial incarceration, the offender will find themselves meeting with their legal counsel. Public defenders are commonly provided to indigent offenders; however private defense attorneys are common in the justice system. These offices hire exclusively civilian employees, offering an abundance of internship opportunities.
4. Public Prosecutor’s Office:
The offender will eventually appear in court during a pretrial session, where more often than not a plea agreement will be discussed between the prosecutor and the defendant’s attorney. The prosecutor has several tiers of assistants below them, offering the possibility for an internship, as well.
5. Probation Office:
Assuming the offender is convicted; they will enter the corrections system. Probation is the most common form of government supervision. Civilian opportunities and internships can be found within the office of probation. A common component of probation is rehabilitation. Offenders are often required to participate in drug or alcohol classes, anger management, or domestic violence education, depending on their offense. These rehabilitation programs often involve both state and private institutions. This diversity of service allows for plenty of different intern positions.
In summary, internships may be found in local and federal law enforcement, the court system and prosecutor’s office, office of the public defender or private defense attorney offices, the probation department, and private and government correctional rehabilitation services. Finding an internship that fits is a matter of making a solid professional network, and finding an area of the system that you feel will best suit your goals as a criminal justice professional.
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