The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is a creative link between two of the largest and most highly-funded institutional and social structures in our country: academia and prisons. These institutions traditionally have very different functions and goals in terms of education, control, and political influence, and they are, in general, alternately oriented towards the most advantaged and disadvantaged social strata in our society. Inside-Out walks the space in between the university and the prison, building lines of communication between professors and correctional officers, university and jail administrators, college students and incarcerated persons. The relationships that develop have the potential to activate shifts in thinking, new ways of managing resources, and a new belief in the possibility of social change that involves identifying commonalities within dichotomies. In the simplest of terms, Inside-Out is out of the ordinary.
The structure of Inside-Out is on three programmatic levels: college-prison courses, the expanding local and national network of instructors, and the Think Tank at Graterford Prison. These programs function to create a balance between Inside-Out’s combined focus on academic study and social change.
“Being part of this experience has taught me more than I could ever put into words. This has changed my mindset and my life. In the future, I hope to use every dialogue, experience, and teaching as reference in hopes of changing someone else’s life, as mine has been changed. I’m definitely not leaving this class the way I came in. I will be leaving with the necessary tools to make a positive impact on the criminal justice system…” (Outside Participant)
“This whole experience has had an enormous effect on me. The issues that were addressed in class seeped into every inch of my being. The issues have consistently reinforced my desire and need to work for social justice.” (Outside Participant)