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Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program
“At the university we are creatures of habit; students sit in their same seats in the classroom. In Inside-Out I don’t think I’ve sat next to the same person twice. I always have something to talk about with my neighbor . . .I was afraid going into this class that we wouldn’t have much in common, but steel bars are clearly permeable because we have more to discuss than I could have ever imagined.”
- Peter, ‘outside’ (Clark Honors College) student, 2009
What is Inside-Out?
The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is a national organization that creates a dynamic partnership between institutions of higher learning and correctional systems. This partnership deeps the conversation and transforms our approaches to understanding crime, justice, freedom, inequality, and other issues of social concern.
Inside-Out brings college students together with incarcerated men and women to study as peers in a seminar behind prison walls. The core of the Inside-Out Program is a quarter-long academic course, meeting once a week, through which 12 to 15 “outside” (i.e.: undergraduate) students and the same number of “inside” (i.e.: incarcerated) students attend class together inside prison. All participants read a variety of texts and write several papers. During class sessions, students discuss issues in small and large groups. In the final month, students work together on a class project.
Inside-Out is an opportunity for college students to go behind the walls to reconsider what they have come to know about crime and justice. At the same time, it is also an opportunity for those inside prison to place their life experiences in a larger framework. Participating in Inside-Out is often transformative and it serves as an engine for social change. The power of Inside-Out can be seen in this award-winning documentary. Tiffany Kimmel and Jessica Reedy, students from the UO’s School of Journalism and Communication, produced and directed the piece which features the CHC’s spring 2009 Inside-Out course. The video, executive produced by UO professor Dan Miller, was the national winner in the Television Feature category in the Society of Professional Journalists 2009 Mark of Excellence Awards
How is Inside-Out affiliated with the Clark Honors College?
Each year, three Inside-Out courses taught through the University are offered exclusively to Clark Honors College students. They are taught by professors from a variety of disciplines including sociology, geography, and literature. More than 75 CHC students have taken Inside-Out courses since 2007. Inside-Out courses are held weekly, throughout a given term, inside either the Oregon State Penitentiary or the Oregon State Correctional Institution. Both prisons are located in the Salem area, and transportation is provided by the University.
Prior to the deadline for application to the following term’s classes, the CHC sends an email notification to all students about the Inside-Out program. CHC students interested in the Inside-Out class are required to attend an orientation, fill out a written application, attend an interview with the Inside-Out course instructor, and undergo a criminal background check. ‘Inside’ students are screened by prison officials for literacy and background,and are also interviewed by the University of Oregon instructor. Instructors attend a special training program for teaching methods, as well as orientation and security training through the Department of Corrections. A list of upcoming Inside-Out courses is here.
My Inside-Out course has concluded. How can I stay involved with issues of social justice, and connect with other Inside-Out ‘outside’ alumni to affect positive change in our community?
Inside-Out at the University of Oregon is powered by a highly active, supportive group of Inside-Out ‘outside’ alumni whose interests were, in many cases, redirected by their experience in an Inside-Out classroom. Inside-Out alumni (including both current students and alumni of the University) lead a book club with incarcerated youth at the Serbu Juvenile Justice Center of Lane County. Last spring they organized a Non-Violent Communication workshop with Sponsors Inc., a re-entry program in Eugene. We are always looking for new participants, leaders, and innovative new projects. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or visit insideoregon.com.
In spring 2010, Inside-Out alumni collaborated on a creative arts journal, Turned Inside-Out . Published by the Clark Honors College, the journal features student essays and artistic expressions examining the texts studied during the CHC’s first three years of Inside-Out classes at the Oregon State Penitentiary. A recent article by Inside-Out ‘outside’ alumnus Ben DeJarnette, published in the Eugene Register-Guard, describes the power of the Inside-Out experience.