2016 recipient of the Audrey J. Harris Summer Internship Award
Interned at the Mendota Mental Health Institute
Majors: Psychology and Legal Studies with a Certificate in Criminal Justice
Goals: To attend law school and become a prosecutor
This summer I had the opportunity of interning at Mendota Mental Health Institute (MMHI). MMHI receives individuals from the courts who have been deemed Not Guilty by Reason of Mental Disease or Defect, or who are not competent to stand trial. There are 13 units on MMHI: 11 adult units ranging from maximum to minimum security, a geriatric unit, and a juvenile unit. The juvenile unit, Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center (MJTC) is where I spent the majority of my time. MJTC is different from the rest of the facility in that it is overseen by the Department of Corrections, rather than the Department of Health Services as is the rest of the institute. The mission of MMHI is to provide quality mental health treatment and patient care in safe settings for challenging and complex patient populations.
My experience at MMHI has been phenomenal. I will use the knowledge I have gained from my time at MMHI throughout my future coursework, career, and life. Prior to the internship, mental health treatment and corrections was abstract – it only existed in my textbooks. I was able to observe the real world application of what I have learned in class: therapy techniques, risk assessments and actuarial tools, alcohol and drug abuse evaluations, and many other concepts. I was able to witness intakes – the initial assessment of a patient to determine which method of treatment would be most beneficial; I participated in conducting therapy sessions with juveniles; I personally directed interviews with patients and submitted recommendations for whether or not they qualified for less restrictive settings within the facility. The opportunities I was given at MMHI allowed me to further understand the complexities of the criminal justice system and mental health law.
Additionally, I would like to extend my gratitude to the family of Audrey J. Harris for their outstanding generosity and support. I was able to fully appreciate the opportunity I was given without the burden of financial stress. My dream is to attend law school and become a prosecutor; this will allow me to be in the position to push for change in the legal system by recommending treatment for mentally ill defendants, and enforcing a rehabilitative and restorative approach to criminal justice.