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'Eye-Opening' Work in Adult Corrections

Workplace experiences at a summer internship convinced Cheyenne England she had made the right career choice, even as it brought surprises to the Emporia State University senior from De Soto.

England, who is majoring in psychology with minors in Spanish and crime and delinquency, interned for Johnson County Corrections Department at the Adult Residential Center in Gardner. She shadowed a residential case manager, a probation officer who supervises clients after they are released from their jail sentences.

“My internship made me realize that I would love to work with community corrections, whether that be becoming a probation officer or being a mental health counselor in a correctional facility,” England said, explaining she had gained a vast amount of knowledge and professional connections, along with the opportunity to “work hands-on and apply school life material to the real world. It also allows students to dip their foot into an area they might not know if they are 100 percent interested in.”

As an intern, England helped run and document required weekly client meetings, verified background checks and filed paycheck and drug test information, among other assignments. Occasionally she observed clients’ court hearings, which was a new experience and one of the most enjoyable aspects of the internship.

Her classes at Emporia State had helped tremendously in preparing for the work, she said, as she applied what she had learned about the legal system to the criminal history and sentencing process for each client and the mental health disorders that had been diagnosed.

It was in filling out the Level of Service Inventory-Revised forms for new clients, however, that brought a new awareness to England. The LSI-R is a risk and need assessment tool to identify an offender’s problem areas — lack of parental involvement, for example — and to predict the risk of recidivism. Through the tests, England learned extensive histories of the clients’ backgrounds and what had brought them to the center.

“The main thing that surprised me the most was how ‘regular’ some of these clients were,” she said, adding that previously she had believed all criminals were intimidating through their looks and their personalities.

“It was eye-opening to see these people are just like everyday people,” she said. “They all have similar interests as me, they just had harsher upbringings that likely introduced them to criminal activity, but overall they were all really easy to talk to.”

Cheyenne England, at left in photo, is with the residential case manager whom she shadowed.