In my internship with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, I work at Polk Correctional Institution, a men’s prison in Butner, North Carolina. With my supervisor, Dr. Peiper, the prison psychologist at Polk, I gather information on the mental health status of inmates in high security maximum controlled segregation units, also known as solitary confinement. We are interested in comparing instances of mental health issues, such as self-injurious behavior, in this population to these behaviors in inmates located elsewhere in the prison. I have also been reading all about the prison system so I can better understand the experiences of prisoners and the way their instances of self-harm or suicidal behavior are handled by prison staff. Some of what I am reading about has to do with prison reforms being put into place throughout the nation.
Recently I have also attended several interesting meetings and trainings with Dr. Peiper. The first was a Pre-Sentence Diagnostic meeting, in which prison staff reviewed files and charges of one prisoner whose mental health was assessed. The inmate was also at the meeting, which made his story seem much more personal. I also attended the final day of the Crisis Intervention Team training, a new training that all prison staff are now required to complete. This training teaches prison staff how to interact with and respond to inmates with serious mental illness. Several important people from the Department of Public Safety were present for part of the training, including the Director of Prisons and the Central Region Office Director. I find the topics of this training very important for prison staff, and I was excited to be a part of the training.
When I initially found out that Polk Correctional Institution was my site for the Karen M. Gil Internship, I was honestly pretty frightened. Dr. Peiper has made me feel comfortable at the prison, and has provided me with some incredible new experiences. Before this internship, I rarely thought about prisoners, but now I have visited the prison multiple times, been inside a single cell, read the mental health files of many prisoners, and learned so much about the prison system. On top of that, I have learned about skills for applying for jobs and graduate school through the class portion of the internship. These experiences have definitely helped me narrow down what I want to do after college, and given me tools to get there!