by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
The University of North Florida was recently recognized as having one of the largest criminal justice internship programs in the country.
After an external review by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, results showed the UNF Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice as one of the largest criminal justice internship programs in the country.
The department places more than 100 students in justice internships each year in federal, state, and local agencies as well as nonprofit organizations.
The State Attorney’s Office, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, FBI, Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS), U.S. Marshal’s Service, Duval County Medical Examiner’s Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) are some of the more popular placement sites.
“We work with students to tailor their internships around their interests,” said Dr. Michael Hallett, department chair. “Before students are placed, we challenge them to explore the mission and history of the placement site and, to research the placement to ensure they will have the right fit with the placement.
“Sometimes students make a choice and it doesn’t turn out to be anything like what they have seen on television and I will get a call asking them to be taken out of the internship,” said Hallett. “But the process we have in place helps to reduce those occurrences.”
Part of UNF’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice was formerly “tied at the hip” to the sociology and anthropology programs.
But five years ago, it became the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
The latter recently recognized the volunteer efforts of Chief Assistant State Attorney Dan McCarthy with the first “Outstanding Community Mentor” award for his work in mentoring program students.
“Ever since Angela Corey took office, she has been aggressively expanding the internship program at the State Attorney’s Office,” said McCarthy. “I met some of the students and Dr. Hallett through the Jacksonville Journey program. Dr. Hallett asked me if I would be interested in speaking to the students at UNF and I got involved with helping the students learn about the criminal justice system.”
McCarthy said it was great to receive the recognition.
“I’ve always been a person that believed in paying it forward,” he said. “A lot of people have helped me during my career and I may not be able to pay them back, so I try to help young people in the same fashion.”
McCarthy revealed that a majority of the 47 summer interns at the State Attorney’s Office were from UNF.
“We are finding that more and more of the interns are coming back after they graduate from law school,” said McCarthy. “The internship is a good way to get your foot in the door and learn about the criminal justice system outside of the classroom.”
Students at the State Attorney’s Office are able to work in the Office’s Bad Checks department and process bad check cases to help secure payment for area merchants, contribute to appellate cases and observe some of the bigger cases as they go to trial.
“Every week he sends interns an update of what is happening in the Duval County Court system,” said Hallett. “Unpacking the dynamics of particular cases. Going out of his way to make sure students know the complexities of what is going on in the courtroom.”