Transforming Public Thought From Behind the Walls

Lori Pompa, Temple University

Through the "Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program," univerity students attend class behind prison walls alongside incarcerated students. Now in its 13th semester, "Inside-Out" allows students from the outside to apply their learning in a very real setting, while those on the inside can reconsider their real-life experiences within a wider framework. By exploring theoretical concepts within the setting of a prison, theory is moved out of the purely mental sphere to a more powerful level--as the mind is engaged, so is the heart. If how we feel, to some extent, drives what we think, herein lies the crux of the transformative potential of this program. Those involved become inspired to learn as much as they can in order to make a difference in the injustices they see. The learning is multi-layered and rich, a result of the reciprocal exchange among everyone involved. We will examine the transformative dimension of this kind of learning, and its potential as education for social justice and social change. We will also discuss the replication of this program as a national model by the workshop leader, who was awarded a Fellowship through the Criminal Justice Initiative, a program of the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute.

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Updated 05/20/2006