Students take part in unique internship program with PA Department of Corrections

By Tom McGuire, Director of Communications/Media Relations

The idea for the internship program came from PA’s Secretary of Corrections, John Wetzel ’98, also a member of BU’s Council of Trustees.

BLOOMSBURG — Seven Bloomsburg University students took part in a new and unique summer internship program with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) Bureau of Investigations and Intelligence (BII) and the Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs. 

The idea for the internship program came from PA’s Secretary of Corrections, John Wetzel ’98, also a member of BU’s Council of Trustees. This year, the DOC completed a violence forecast by analyzing a number of data points that indicated the strong likelihood of a significantly violent summer, primarily in urban areas throughout the Commonwealth. The interns were tasked with monitoring communications in and out of the state’s 24 correctional institutions in order to bolster the intelligence efforts of BII. The interns were able to provide actionable intel that could be used by the DOC and other law enforcement agencies to investigate or stop crimes.

The BU students, all entering their junior or senior year of school, worked alongside experienced and senior personnel, giving them significant exposure to the internal operations of a large state agency. Overall, 10 students took part in the program.

“The interns from Bloomsburg University and other schools have made the most of their opportunity this summer to work and learn with the PA Department of Corrections,” said Secretary Wetzel. “These students are not just pushing paper or getting coffee. They’re putting in real hours with the Bureau of Investigations and Intelligence to gain hands-on experience and help keep our facilities safe for staff and residents.”
 
“The interns learned early on that this was not a typical office job,” Wetzel said. “In addition to visits to state prison facilities, the group participated in an organization-wide training exercise where they saw firsthand how virtually all facets of the Department prepare to come together in the event of an emergency or crisis. We hope this chance to see Department operations from a perspective that is not offered to many people will be valuable to them, whether it’s as part of a career with the DOC or elsewhere.  

The BU students taking part in the program were: Trevor Dennison, Julia Tappany, Brianna Jones, Meredith Norris, Conner Pennington, Keron Butcher, and Brandon Gill.

 “A member of our Council of Trustees and an ardent supporter of all things BU, Secretary Wetzel continues to be a strong advocate for our students and their success,” said BU President Bashar Hanna. “The internship program he has developed and championed provides our students practical experience that places them in a position of strength as they build their resumes and prepare for successful careers before earning their Bloomsburg degrees." 

For Butcher, the experience was eye-opening.

“This internship has been a great experience for me,” said the rising senior from Thorndale, Pa. “Throughout this internship, I have met and made connections with so many people. I have also been shown that there are many aspects in the corrections field; whatever your field of study is, there is space for you in the DOC.” 

“Also the employees there are so kind. Almost every person I met wanted to help me with my future or give me some advice, which really means a lot to me,” Butcher said. “Since this internship started, I have made the right connections to help point me in the right direction upon graduation. My plan after college is to find a job working in cyber-security or IT at a company. 

Norris, a sociology major from Atglen, Pa., used the internship to explore the criminal justice field.

“As a sociology major, but having an interest in exploring the criminal justice field, I applied to the internship in hopes that I could gain knowledge and experience and network with as many people as possible,” said Norris, who is a senior. “This summer was nothing short of those things and more. I learned so much about the fields of corrections and parole, how closely they work together and how different parts of each field operate. The PA DOC internship was such an eye-opening experience. The internship made me realize my initial interest in criminal justice is something that I want to explore more. My plan is to apply for a job in corrections when I graduate in December 2021.”

“From the outset of this summer’s internship program, it has been clear that these young men and women were engaged and prepared to take full advantage of the opportunities offered,” Wetzel said. “I have heard nothing but positive feedback from the field, and Bloomsburg University should be proud of how the DOC interns are representing their school. 

Based on the program's success, Secretary Wetzel intends to continue providing this internship opportunity in the coming years.