Students to get chance to intern at One Place
by Tom Smith
FLORENCE — A partnership between the University of North Alabama and One Place of the Shoals is offering one-semester internships to UNA criminal justice and sociology students.
One Place of the Shoals is a partnership between the district attorney's office and other providers of services to victims of domestic and dating violence, adult rape and sexual assault, child sexual and physical abuse, and elder abuse.
The services are all in one location. One Place also works with local law enforcement agencies.
"We have a UNA graduate who interned with us last year working part time with One Place of the Shoals," Assistant Lauderdale County District Attorney Angie Hamilton said. "We are now offering internships to all UNA criminal justice and sociology students."
She said it will give students hands-on experience.
"UNA is proactive in encouraging students to provide outreach to the community and engage with community organizations," said Yaschica Williams, chairman and assistant professor in the UNA Department of Criminal Justice.
Williams said the internship will present students with the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-life experiences gained while working in the field.
"Not only will students apply what they have learned, but it will also afford them with the opportunity to work with victims and survivors of violent crimes," Williams said.
Williams said a substantial amount of the semester is devoted to observing victims' interactions with various agents of the criminal justice system.
Hamilton said UNA is partnering with One Place of the Shoals by assigning a UNA public safety officer to the Lauderdale County Domestic Violence Unit, which averages about 1,500 cases a year. The unit includes investigators from the Florence Police Department, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, the Lauderdale County District Attorney's Office and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. The unit joined One Place of the Shoals in 2013.
Hamilton said Tony Torres, a UNA public safety officer, has been assigned to the unit on a part-time basis.
"This gives us a good working relationship with the local law enforcement agencies," UNA Police Chief Bob Pastula said. "(The other agencies) get to see our training and understand what we do, and Tony will get to undergo their training."
Pastula said Torres is bilingual, which should be an asset.
"To me, this partnership is a plus for everybody," the chief said.
Hamilton said because of the efforts of Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, the unit received a vehicle from the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Enforcement Division that Torres will use.
The domestic violence unit was formed in August 2011 through a partnership with the Lauderdale County District Attorney's Office, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office, Florence police, Safeplace, and the Lauderdale and Florence municipal court systems. The unit is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Hamilton said the more partners the unit and One Place of the Shoals adds, the more victims can be assisted.
"With the development of the unit and the additional partnerships, we are seeing more cases prosecuted and more positive outcomes with guilty pleas or convictions.
"Now, more than 70 percent of abusers in this county are being held accountable for their actions by either being placed in a batterer's intervention program or going to jail."