For 18 years, the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program has been “a staple of social and criminal justice education at over 100 universities,” writes Krysta Amber Loftis of USA Today. Inside-Out arranges classes at local prisons featuring both incarcerated and non-incarcerated students.
The Inside-Out program began in 1997 at Philadelphia’s Temple University, and has since become a staple of social and criminal justice education at over 100 universities, including Michigan State, the University of Toledo, Penn State and Dartmouth.
Take the example of Central Michigan University (CMU).
Members of CMU’s chapter of the national Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program spend Tuesday nights in the Central Michigan Correctional Facility in St. Louis. The class, Social Issues through the Prism of Prison, is taught by sociology professor Justin Smith.
This is the second semester CMU has offered the course.
“It’s (13) students from the inside and (13) students from the outside,” Smith said, explaining that the incarcerated men are between the ages of 20 and 65.
“A lot of this is a reaction to making sure we’re improving education in prisons, but also in higher education institutions. It’s a way to offer CMU students a very diverse setting to learn in (and) a way to learn from a variety of experiences, a variety of ages.”
The prison portion of the class consists of group discussions.
Issues range from the criminal justice system to gender, race and racism, class, social change, social movements and collective action.
“Both the inside guys and outside students get a lot out of it,” Smith said. “The inside guys are mostly older, and they’ve been through a different lifestyle than the students. The students have had a lot more access to education. We’re able to have a lot of good discussions.”