My name is Betsy Neill and I am a junior studying Psychology and Political Science. I hope to pursue a graduate degree in Clinical Forensic Psychology with the hopes of becoming a prison psychologist. As a Gil Intern, I have been given the incredible and unique opportunity to work in the Department of Adult Corrections in Raleigh, North Carolina. More specifically, I am interning with the Behavioral Health Department that is working to establish more mental health treatment programs in some of the prisons in North Carolina. My mentor, Dr. Jon Peiper, is a prison psychologist and the Assistant Director of the Behavioral Health Department. The last Gil intern to work with Dr. Peiper, Alban Fousler, gathered mental health data on the inmates that were placed in high security maximum controlled segregation units (previously referred to as solitary confinement). The treatment programs that Dr. Peiper and the rest of the department are working on will serve as an alternative to these segregation units for the inmates that qualify as mental health patients. My job is to make mental health profiles for the inmates that are diagnosed with mental illnesses and have committed infractions that cause them to be placed in a segregation unit. These profiles will be used to decide whether or not an inmate is eligible for the program. It is really exciting that the research that the last Gil intern did had such a large impact on the new treatment programs and the work that I am currently doing. It shows how significant the work I am doing may be for future Gil interns but more importantly for the inmates that will be placed into these new treatment programs.
I have just recently started my internship, so creating these profiles is my main job at the moment, but I have spoken with Dr. Peiper about other opportunities I may have this semester. I am going to get to shadow a prison psychologist in Central Prison and sit in on some of the treatment sessions once they start. I also may have the opportunity to gain similar experience in the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women so that I learn some of the differences in working with male and female inmates. If I have enough time before the semester ends, I may be doing some research on the effectiveness of these programs. I will also get the opportunity to meet with the post-doctorate interns to get advice and wisdom about what graduate school is like in the field of Clinical Forensic Psychology.
Whenever I tell someone that I want to be a prison psychologist, they doubt me and tell me that I need to gain experience in this field before I fully commit myself to it. My goal for the Gil internship was gain that experience and learn about the demands of working in a prison. I feel as though my internship will do just that as well as help me develop the professional skills necessary to prepare me for a rigorous graduate school experience.
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