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Criminal Justice Department Internship Program Offers Real-World Experience

Johanna Sorto ’18 at Newark Community Solutions

Hon. Kevin Callahan ’69, faculty member in the criminal justice department and a retired New Jersey Superior Court judge, together with his colleagues, has been working hard to advance and strengthen the criminal justice internship program. Under his leadership and service, the program’s success is skyrocketing as employers are recruiting Saint Peter’s University student interns at a rapid rate. The carefully constructed program provides criminal justice students the real-world experience they need to succeed upon graduation.

The criminal justice major is divided into interest specific categories. Callahan works with the students to place them in internships that correlate with their concentration. The personalized attention and Callahan’s knowledge of Hudson County and the local criminal justice business needs ensure a symbiotic relationship. In addition, many of the internship positions feature a community service aspect and help to solidify prominent community partnerships. Working in programs designed to help others, students exhibit cura personalis.

For example, the New Jersey Reentry Corporation (NJRC) recruits many Saint Peter’s interns. NJRC is a nonprofit agency with the mission to remove barriers to employment for citizens returning from incarceration. At this internship, students work

Sean Manning ’19 at Hudson County Superior Court

with Executive Director John Koufos a prominent figure in New Jersey reentry. Koufos established a “mini” law firm as part of NJRC with the intention to address criminal justice issues. He needed students who could relate to the clients. Callahan was able to provide that.

“Knowing the clients is key to any position in criminal justice,” said Koufos. “[We can] give the students real exposure to the clients and the barriers they face,” said Koufos,

At NJRC, Koufos makes it a point that interns receive hands-on experience via outreach, seminars and interaction with law enforcement; they write and schedule motions and go to court with pro-bono lawyers.

“We are very interested in working with Saint Peter’s interns in the future. They are work ready. The formula [the University] is using for teaching is working,” said Koufos.

Cory Garriga ’18, who has a goal of going to law school and who wants to be a criminal defense attorney, interned at NJRC and was offered a paid position there upon completion of his internship.

“Learning how to self-mature was the most important lesson I learned,” said Garriga. “I was able to spend time with John Koufos, who is a major league player in the field.”

Johanna Sorto ’18 interned at Newark Community Solutions, a new program that applies a problem-solving approach to low-level cases in Newark, New Jersey’s municipal court.

“This experience has taught me so much. It gave me a perspective I was not expecting. I always thought that an offender was an offender, but I learned that there are many variables in a person’s life and there are a lot of people who are struggling and who need help,” Sorto said.

Cory Garriga ’18 at NJRC

The internships allow the students to explore different career options. Kyle Bandoo ’18 interned with the City of Jersey City Public Safety Information Technology and Keajah Hall ’18, who has a strong interest in juvenile justice, interned at the Juvenile Justice Commission where she worked with juvenile parolees. Sean Manning ’19 completed his internship at the Hudson County Superior Court in Jersey City. These are just a few of the program’s recent students.

“Working with many different people in the industry, such as judges and parole officers has allowed me to see different points of view and has opened me up to a world of information,” said Manning. “This internship takes the theories I discussed in class and showed me what they look like in practice.”

The internship program has been equally beneficial for the employers involved. Lucinda McLaughlin, director of the Jersey City Youth Counsel (JCYC), relies on Saint Peter’s interns and volunteers. JCYC is a youth based program for teenagers that serves as an alternate to juvenile court. It is a form of restorative justice. The Saint Peter’s interns help with the interactive training including offering unique perspectives, which the high school students value.

“Judge Callahan is in tune with what the community’s needs are and he makes sure everyone is benefitting from the experience,” McLaughlin said.

To learn more about criminal justice at Saint Peter’s, click here.