PSA Internships – A Unique Opportunity that Could Last a Career

LaVon Thompson, Court Representatives Supervisor

The year was 1984. It was my first day on the job as an intern in PSA’s Diagnostic Unit. I had completed training on how to interview defendants and had been sent into the cellblock alone to conduct my first real interview. I remember slowly entering the cellblock not knowing exactly what to expect. I called the defendant’s name, but was not prepared for what I would see next. A disgusted-looking man approached the bars. The first thing that caught my attention was his blood-stained shirt. An avid viewer of the local news, it suddenly became apparent who I was about to interview. A news story the night before had reported a murder and before me stood the accused. Nearly three decades later, I still remember the instant shift I experienced. Instead of feeling timid, I began to feel excited because I suddenly realized that what I was doing was important.    

I completed my internship, finished my senior year at George Washington University and set out to find a full-time job. A few months prior, PSA’s Drug Testing and Compliance Unit (DTCU) had opened its doors and I applied for a job there. With the internship experience to my credit, it paved the way for me to get hired. I never imagined it would be the start of a career that has lasted almost 30 years. 

One thing about working at PSA back then is that something always was changing; so one position lead to a new and different one, which kept me interested in my work year after year. From the DTCU, where I escorted defendants to submitting samples as well as worked in the lab testing urine specimens, I went to Diagnostic Unit, the former Post Release Services (C-301), the Juvenile Drug Unit and now Supervision Programs. Each assignment brought new experiences and developed a new skill set.

There are many qualified candidates that apply for jobs at PSA, but interns have some advantages when it comes to certain positions due to their hands-on experience and the professional relationships that develop with supervisors and staff. Not only that, the Agency invests a great deal of time preparing interns for their assigned units  and keeping them occupied with meaningful work that exposes them to their interests and career opportunities. In turn, PSA benefits by hiring employees who are already basically trained and fairly familiar with the Agency culture. 

There are many others currently working at PSA who have journeyed the path of intern to employee. Here are reflections from a few:

Special Assistant, Antoinette Williams - "The internship I completed at PSA was the start of a life changing experience. I never expected it would turn into a career that has lasted 29 years. My goal at one time was to become an attorney, and I thought interning at PSA would be the path I would take to initiate this, but working at the Agency afforded me a realistic perspective of the criminal justice field that defined me and the career path that I chose to follow. The experience has been rewarding and has truly enriched my life”.

Training Officer, Alisha Glover - “My internship was the open door to my 16 year tenure here at PSA. It afforded me the opportunity to receive first-hand experience with various members and aspects of the criminal justice system as a whole, often seeing beyond what I was accustomed to seeing “on TV”. I also gained a deeper appreciation for the principles of professionalism and accountability”.

PSO, Geraldine Decembre – “My 5 years of federal service began after my internship experience which was enriching and established the foundation for my career at PSA. My internship experience challenged me and afforded me the opportunity to showcase and actively develop my skills and abilities. I was impressed with the professionalism and experience of the staff I was assigned to shadow and work with. I was able to network and gain exposure by rotating to different units toward the end of my internship period. What I find so unique about PSA is that working here (as an intern or a full-time staff member) provides access to other agencies and fields in criminal justice that is not available anywhere else. I recommend interning at PSA to anyone looking for the opportunity to learn about and experience different facets of the criminal justice process, especially in regards to restorative justice, and to make professional connections that will support and guide their career for the long-term."

Presently, I am the host for an intern who is in graduate school studying forensic psychology. Her goal is to work for a court system as a forensic psychologist interviewing defendants to determine their competency to stand trial. She is eager to learn and interested in her work here at PSA. I’ve hosted numerous interns over the years and it’s always rewarding for me to know I am contributing to the launching of someone’s career – maybe here at PSA.

The PSA Writers Bureau is a creative forum for employees to write about PSA from a personal perspective.