From July 28 to Aug. 3, faculty from around the country who teach through the Inside-Out Prison Exchange program visited Arcadia University to learn more about the program, where students and inmates work together in a collaborative classroom at a nearby prison.
At present, there are more than 150 higher education Inside-Out programs. An estimated 35,000 students have gone through the program since its inception in 1997.
“This Inside-Out program creates a space where people are called to be their best selves,” said Founder and Executive Director Lori Pompa, an instructor of Criminal Justice at Temple University. “It’s a connection that we hunger for at a deep human level.”
Attendees discussed what it means to hold a classroom in a prison and the benefits for all students, and called into question their own unique biases of and experiences with the justice system.
Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Missouri Ashley Givens said that there isn’t a program at her institution like Inside-Out, and that she hopes to start one as an elective course.
“The long-term benefits of having this program for students is unbelievable,” said Givens. “There’s a mutual benefit that allows for self-reflection and a sense of agency. I wish my college had a program like it when I was in school.”
The national program has an established root at Arcadia University, which has run courses each semester since 2003 in a variety of topics. This fall, the University’s program taught by Celeste Walker, adjunct professor of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies, and Susan Pierce, adjunct professor of English, will explore the connections between the performing arts and society.