Jail time changed my goals after college

Rachel Hecke
Rachel Hecke
April 11, 2019

In the fall term of my Junior Year at Augustana I had the amazing opportunity to do an internship with Scott County Jail in Davenport, Iowa. 
This opportunity was available to me though the psychology department’s clinical experience program. Although there were many different options of where I could have been assigned for a clinical experience, I knew right away that I really wanted to intern at Scott County Jail. 

Due to my interest in social justice, I have had a deep desire to work with the population of incarcerated people and to learn more about the justice and prison system itself. Scott County Jail was the perfect place for me to gain experience and learn more about this sector of psychology work. 

I was very nervous of course for my first day but thankfully everything went smoothly. I started out by observing my supervisor lead group sessions a couple times a week on healthy relationships. I would also input data into the system to keep track of how many attendants were at each session and what sessions were being held when. 

I had the opportunity to assist in an assessment of a schizophrenic male hoping to get admission into mental health court. Soon, I started to assist my supervisor during group sessions, along with another intern from St. Ambrose University. We would plan the sessions ahead of time and come prepared on how to lead meaningful conversations and fun activities. 

Eventually just me and the other intern planned and lead a couple group sessions about women empowerment. Soon it was time for me to plan and lead a session on my own.  


Leading on my own

To plan my group, I thought about what would be not only a meaningful and useful lesson but also what I knew and would be able to share and discuss well. Looking at my life, I deal with a lot of stress as I know do many people, especially those who are incarcerated. 

So, I thought that a class on healthy coping mechanisms would be applicable to all. I use humor as a healthy coping mechanism for stress in my life through my involvement in Heywire, the improv group here at Augie. I decided to build my group session about healthy coping for stress with a focus on humor and especially improv. 

I did my session with a group of women. After discussing the importance of healthy coping mechanisms, we got into some fun improv games that they would be able to play outside of class that don’t require anything more than an imagination. 

I would consider the session a success as the women appeared to enjoy the games but more importantly understand how humor can be used to cope with stress in a healthy way. In fact, they even asked to play some of the games again in subsequent group sessions. 


Key takeaways

Other than the very important experience of planning and executing group sessions, my internship at Scott County Jail was also impactful in my overall plans on life after my undergraduate degree at Augustana. 

I learned after this experience, that I would prefer to work with individuals in a more long term one-on-one basis rather than in group sessions. The internship allowed to me to see what kinds of actual work is done regarding psychology within a jail. It also was like a two for one special because I got to observe mental health court every Friday giving me insight on the legal side of incarcerated individuals. 

Overall, all of this helped me to narrow down the possibilities of what I want to pursue after college, and gave me an insight on what I liked and didn’t like about the work that was being done. 

I now know that although I’m still interested in working with incarcerated people or those involved with the justice system, I would be more impactful in a differently structured job then what I experienced during the internship. 

I’m very grateful for my experience and definitely recommend anyone who wishes to study psychology to take advantages of opportunities such as these. I learned skills and insights that simply wouldn’t have happened in a regular classroom setting.  

Rachel Hecke
Rachel Hecke

Rachel Hecke is a junior from São Paulo, Brazil. She’s majoring in psychology, philosophy, and political science. 

On campus she’s involved with the Office of International Student Life, working as a Global Ambassador mentoring incoming international students. She’s also on the executive board for the Psychology Club and Psi Chi, the National Honors Society for Psychology. 

She works for International Admissions and the office of Public Safety, and volunteers with Búhos, a campus group which teaches English as a second language in the community. 

Hecke's also part of Heywire, the campus improv group .