Gabriela Vega ’16 worked directly with inmates at the Essex County Correctional Facility and the Essex County Pre-Release Center in Lawrence. It was all part of her internship and an integral part of earning her Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice.
Over the first few months of her internship, Gabriela worked part-time within the Essex County Correctional Facility as a case worker with a case load of about 60 inmates – all of whom she reviewed on a 60-day basis alongside the other case workers. She also reviewed those inmates who just entered the facility and did an exit review when they were close to being released.
“At first, I was nervous and intimidated by the environment in terms of being in close proximity to inmates, but once I got inside the facility I felt completely safe,” says Gabriela. “I was always surrounded either by an officer or somebody who has been through the academy, and I kept strict boundaries with the inmates as did my co-workers.”
“Every day was different and I constantly learned and observed new things.”
After a few months, Gabriela transferred to the Essex Country Pre-Release Center (ECPRC) where she helped the Deputy of Programs and one of the Reintegration Coordinators with tracking inmates who come from the detox center at the Middleton, MA facility. She was also able to be a spectator when the work release board meets to determine which inmates qualify to work and which go to a sober house.
“At the ECPRC, I saw both negative and positive parts of the justice system,” says Gabriela. “I have seen sad situations, but I also saw my co-workers go above and beyond for the inmates, especially those who are straightening out their lives and doing the right thing while incarcerated. It gives me hope that the justice system is not just filled with negativity like we see in the media. I have seen first-hand the good that the facility and the employees within it can do for inmates.”
Gabriela graduated with a Master of Science in Criminology in May 2016 and plans to work toward her Ph.D. She eventually hopes to teach at the college level in the field of criminology or sociology.