The Inside Out Prison Exchange Program Essays

The Inside Out Prison Exchange Program Essays

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The Inside-Out Prison Exchange program is an educational cooperative between universities and prisons in the United States. It operates on a national level organizing university courses held at prisons in which half the students are incarcerated and half are not. Each individual pairing of a school and a penal system operates their own courses with the professors receiving training from the program headquarters. It has been reported that “the United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other country” (Wing 2013), and many find this statistic troubling. While some work to reduce incarceration rates by working to promote options like diversion programs or non-custodial sentencing, the Inside-Out program works to humanize those inside. The aims of the program are to break down the “walls” between “us” and “them,” to encourage dialogue between inmates (inside students) and college students (outside students) and to enter into transformative learning together.
Their slogan is “Social Change Through Transformative Education” (Inside-Out Center, 2014).

Within the program the terms “inmate,” “criminal,” “offender” etc. are not used, instead a student is either “inside” or “outside;” I will adopt this terminology for the remainder of this essay.

In my community, Inside-Out program operates between Goshen College (in the US a college is a tertiary school), and the Elkhart County Jail. The majority of Inside-Out programs operate at prisons, meeting weekly for a fifteen to eighteen week semester. However due to the desire to practice justice “in our own back yard” (C. Schrock-Shenk, 2015. pers. comm., 20 Sept.) the Goshen College (GC) classes meet at the local community jail. Since a community jail h...


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...“place the existence of the program in jeopardy (Inside-Out Center, 2014).” While the program specifically does not intend to be an advocate of change within the system, the hope is that it’s alumni will themselves become agents of change in society.
The specific pairing of inside and outside students in each locale is very intentional. College students must apply for a place in the course, they may not simply enroll themselves as in any other course. Likewise inside students are selected for participation in the course by jail staff. Putting together the best mix of outside students and inside students, results in successful classroom interaction and thus the program goals are more easily met.
Finally, the professors involved at Goshen College clearly have a passion for this work and their enthusiasm both drives them to excellence and motivates the students.

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