The first Inside-Out course started in September of 1997, when Lori Pompa approached a social worker about the idea of teaching a course in the OPTIONS unit of a Philadelphia jail. The Inside-Out model was developed through a combination of participatory pedagogical theory and direct feedback from inside and outside students. The very beginning semester was focused on the college students, specifically on the possible insights and sensitivity that criminal justice students could apply and use in their careers as a result of exploring important issues alongside incarcerated students. However, it became clear during that first semester that the inside students could be learning and offering just as much as the outside students. From that point on, the orientation and purpose of Inside-Out courses turned towards collaboration as the centerpiece of learning, not just as an exercise of absorbing facts, but an act of creating new knowledge.
The course curriculum took yet another turn in the spring of 1999 when a student offered a critique: “We are looking at issues and analyzing problems, but we have to come up with solutions.” Out of this suggestion, group projects became a central element of the Inside-Out curriculum, challenging inside and outside students to explore practical ways of implementing changes in what they determine can be improved in the criminal justice system, enlivening discussion about actual proposals for community and social action.
Inside-Out expanded to the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Graterford in the summer of 2002. The course has been offered there consistently since that time, involving nearly 300 inside and outside students.
The success of Inside-Out speaks for itself, as the number of classes and universities represented in Philadelphia area correctional facilities increases every semester. In addition to the Temple class at SCI-Graterford, in the 2008-2009 academic year, there were seven classes offered in the Philadelphia jails, through the following colleges and universities: Temple, the University of Pennsylvania, Arcadia University, Haverford College, the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and Saint Joseph’s University. Additionally, four classes were taught through Widener University and Temple at SCI-Chester and a class was also taught through Cabrini College at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. There are also professors who have been trained at Chestnut Hill College and West Chester University who plan to teach in the near future.
The goal over the next three years is to sustain 30-35 classes per year within Graterford and Chester state prisons, the Philadelphia jails, as well as other county, federal, and community-based facilities. Approximately 1,000 students per year will have access to Inside-Out courses, with 10-12 colleges and universities represented within the 5-county area.
Within other areas of Pennsylvania, instructors have been trained from Penn State University, Duquesne University, Bucknell University, Slippery Rock University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, Wilkes University, Gettysburg College, and Keystone College.
THE INSIDE-OUT CENTER