April 3, 2018 at 8:06 am

Internship Delivers Firsthand Knowledge of Government Interactions with Citizens

Sara Nolan, portrait

Sara Nolan ’18


Sara Nolan ’18 involved herself in a variety of activities throughout her time in college, but becoming an intern for the Athens County Public Defender’s Office was a new and amazing experience for her.

This internship has allowed Nolan to shadow local attorneys and social workers, working with them multiple times a week, and developing firsthand knowledge of government interactions with its citizens.

As an intern, she does not just sit in the office, but instead gets to go into the field and observe actual court hearings and proceedings, watch client meetings, and go on jail visits. Nolan said she even helped with legal research and filing for the attorneys’ clients, which is more hands-on than students ever get in a classroom.

Nolan is a Political Science major with a minor in Sociology and a Certificate in Law, Justice, and Culture at Ohio University.

Upon entering into the Sociology Internship program, Nolan knew she would be taking what she was taught in the classrooms of Ohio University into real-world experiences, but in terms of making sociological connections and gaining new research skills, she did not know what to fully expect until the Athens County Public Defender’s Office offered her the position.

After being an intern for over half of the spring semester already, she believes she has learned much more than she ever thought possible through a college internship.

She was interested in this internship because she knew she wanted to protect those who could not protect themselves in our complex legal system.

To quote Gideon v. Wainwright, “Reason and reflection, require us to recognize that, in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.”

Throughout her internship, she has gained insight on the United States’ criminal justice system and how it affects public defenders and their clients everyday in society and in the courtroom. Something surprising that gave Nolan perspective during her internship was seeing how hard it was to be free from bias when society presents opposing ideas about the system and clients. The most beneficial part of this internship was gaining both a broad and more specific understanding of what goes on in our legal system, and that nothing works perfectly.

During Nolan’s internship, she has gained experience for the career path she wishes to follow after graduation. She has always been interested in the local and domestic government and policies, but she was not sure the direction she would go.

The depth of her knowledge on the complexity of the government and its workings grew through her internship, and without it she would not be as positive about her future in pursuing a career in law enforcement and legal research.

Nolan’s internship made her aware of many things concerning the court system, and it persuaded her to concentrate her internship’s research paper on the criminalization of poverty in the United States court system with a focus on public defenders and their clients.

Her focus is on recidivism because it is a major problem in our court system — and where the majority of defendants come from. She sees recidivism as one of the many challenges that hold back the forward growth of many communities.

The internship program in sociology and criminology is open to all junior and senior Sociology, Sociology-Criminology, and Sociology Pre-Law majors. For more information, contact the internship coordinator Roberta Roberson,

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