Jessica Spencer helped law enforcement officers across Texas keep track of parolees in their communities as part of her internship with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Office of Inspector General.
Spencer enrolled representatives from law enforcement agencies, the Department of Public Safety and the Office of the Attorney General’s Office in the state’s Fuginet system, which provides access to information about parolees supervised by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The system has about 5,000 active users from municipal, county, state and federal agencies. Since 2000, nearly 12,000 fugitive cases have been closed with help of the system.
“Fuginet helps law enforcement to know if there is a parole violation or if a parolee has moved,” said Spencer. “It helps officers to keep in contact with parolees in the state.”
Fuginet is one of the services provided by the Office of Inspector General, which is the primary investigative and law enforcement entity within TDCJ. The office investigates criminal cases and serious staff misconduct on TDCJ property and participates in several task forces, including those for fugitives, gangs, auto thefts and crime stoppers. It also monitors the offender telephone system in the prison system and works with law enforcement agencies and the Texas Fusion Center to provide timely information of threats or investigations involving state inmates.
During her internship, Spencer also worked with the auto theft task force, identifying career car thieves that could be interviewed to gain insight into ways to protect the public from this crime. Spencer was tasked with reviewing inmate files from the Manuel A. Segovia Unit and Reynoldo V. Lopez State Jail in Edinburg to select the best candidates for investigators to interview. Although many inmates had offenses for unauthorized use of a vehicle, it required a more thorough investigation to find those who had repeated offenses over a period of years.
“I’ve learned to look at the bigger picture,” said Spencer. “I can understand a lot of the codes, and I can search through records… Since coming here, I gained a lot of skills, both communications skills over the phone and face-to-face.”
Internships provide opportunities for TDCJ staff to introduce students to the field.
“One of the great things about this internship program is it allows students interested in criminal justice to get real world, hands-on experience in the field,” said Inspector General Bruce Toney. “It’s also motivating for my staff to be able to mentor students like Jessica that are pursuing careers in law enforcement and criminal justice.”
Spencer said the internship also opened her eyes to the diverse career opportunities available in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
“TDCJ has so many departments,” said Spencer. “I definitely didn’t know that there were so many different opportunities. I can say that TDCJ opened my mind to all aspects of the agency.”
Spencer said that Sam Houston State University helped pave the way to her internship, both through the advisement office, which helped her select classes, and the internship office, which helped her through the application process.
“I really love it – the people that I met and the things that I got to do,” said Spencer. “I feel good that I got to work in the field and that I got to do something for society.”