UA Student Shares Internship Experience at Detention Center

Desktop News | February 2023

Merritt Stovall, a criminology major and psychology minor, clinched a competitive internship position at the assessment office located inside the Adult Detention Center of Pima County Superior Court in Tucson, Arizona, where only 6 of the 160 applicants were chosen. Stovall’s story is an example of how the College of Arts and Sciences ICUE Connector helps students have a robust educational experience and figure out what they want to do after graduation by providing tangible skills and experiences that can showcase the benefits of a liberal arts education. 

At the internship, Stovall did the biometrics of jail inmates, carried out criminal background checks on them, and managed pretrial administrative work. “I’m not just behind the scenes doing paperwork,” Stovall said while describing her role. “I’m conducting interviews, calls, and releases on my own. I’ve even gotten to mentor and teach new employees! It’s nice to be so hands-on and basically doing things myself.” 

According to Stovall, the internship has reignited her interest in building a profession within federal law enforcement. “Knowing what I want to do is honestly so amazing,” she expressed. It has also offered her insight into some flaws within the American criminal justice system and caused her to reckon with how much she still needs to learn about her chosen career path. 

As Stovall pointed out, her internship is not without its challenges but the challenges she has faced have propelled her to actively apply her educational training and develop emotional intelligence competencies. “It’s interesting how psychology helps with my job. I do a mental health and substance abuse screening for inmates, and the psychology part really comes in when I am asking the inmates questions and [observing] their demeanors. I have learned to be very stern while making sure to let them know that I am there to help them,” Stovall said. 

Since the internship, Stovall has come to feel more self-empowered and grateful for her education at UA. “This internship has given me a new perspective on life. It has led to me being on my phone (social media) less which is one way to improve your studies,” she remarked. “Also, the internship has helped me appreciate the fact that I’m able to attend university.” 

Drawing from her life-changing experiences at her internship, Stovall encourages other students to pursue out-of-school, not-for-credit extracurriculars. “It’s one thing learning stuff in the classroom but it’s another thing to be experiencing what you are learning,” she asserted.