College to County Mentorship in the Sheriff’s Office

By: Edman Wong, College to County Intern

Last summer, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) hosted six College to County (C2C) interns, the highest number the agency has supported through the C2C program.

Cindy Palafox (she/her/hers) is one of the more dedicated interns, spending the past three summers interning with MCSO. Cindy grew up in North Portland and attended Warner Pacific University. 

Photo of Cindy Palafox
Photo of Cindy Palafox

Her internship began in MCSO’s Classification Unit, which primarily focuses on housing and safety in the corrections environment. Over the course of her internships, she transitioned to the Programs Unit. Duane Randle (he/him) is currently the Unit’s Program Supervisor and leads the unit’s intern mentorship. Within the Programs Unit, Palafox worked alongside Corrections Counselors as an Office Assistant, and more recently served as Corrections Technician.

As a team, they assess the needs and risk factors of adults in custody to provide comprehensive case management and planning, and prepare personalized case plans to assist with individual problems and concerns based on the offender’s responsivity factors, such as culture, learning style, gender and identified criminogenic needs. They also provide transition planning, intensive communication and case coordination with individuals, offender groups, community-based providers, institution staff and family members. The goal is to develop individualized transition plans and provide the plans to local and state institutions to aid in an individual’s re-entry into the community.

The work is not easy, and interns quickly learn how dynamic these jail settings can be. During mentorship, they become familiar with the term Vicarious Trauma, or the psychological, emotional or physical stress of exposure to traumatic stories and experiences of empathetically engaging with trauma survivors.

In addition to working alongside Corrections Counselors, Palafox had the opportunity to work in the mailroom, a place with inherent safety risks, and where this type of trauma can be experienced.

“There are things you may see in incoming mail that are not normal,” Randle said. “You are prone to exposure to elements that are out of the ordinary… Nitrile gloves and protection masks are worn when sorting incoming mail as a safety precaution. There can be unknown powdery substances contained in opened mail that can go airborne and be accidentally inhaled, in addition to the risk of physical contact with harmful unknown substances and illicit drugs.”

Photo of Duane Randle
Photo of Duane Randle

While these warnings may make a person think twice, Randle said he was surprised how fast Palafox was able to pick up the technology and adapt to the environment at MCSO.

“It was rewarding to just watch Cindy kind of ‘coming into her own,’ becoming more comfortable in this environment, and in some areas, actually starting to thrive,” Randle said. “You would ask her to do a particular task and then not only did she do it, but began to augment it and add extra components, which resulted in a better overall tool or product.”

MCSO is home to various units that all work together to provide quality prevention, intervention and rehabilitative services to the communities of Multnomah County. The goal of the Sheriff’s Office is to create stronger and safer communities.

When Cindy was asked how have you been able to connect with your mentor? She responded, “My mentor continuously looks for ways to help me reach and identify goals of mine, he looks out for me and checks in with me about job postings online, and ensures that I have looked into them to see if any have sparked my interest. He encourages me to push past my limits in the best ways and offers many words of encouragement to become my best self.”

Cindy recently transitioned into a Corrections Technician position and plans on continuing to work at the County and when asked, how do you plan on making an impact and lead future generations to future opportunities she responded “I will encourage and recommend that any and all college students apply to be a part of the C2C community. They have many departments that are looking for people to join their team who are willing to share their unique qualities for generations to come! It’s a great way to put a foot in the door, create valuable connections, and get relevant experience in their desired professional fields”.

C2C provides college students from underrepresented communities with paid summer internships. Our program increases participants' understanding of career pathways at the county, with focused mentorship and professional development opportunities.