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Inside Out Prison Exchange

Facilitating dialogue across difference

Inside Out letters in a graffiti style font. The beginning is punctuated by an exclamation point with a star. The end is completed with a flourish and two dots.

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program® is an educational program with an innovative pedagogical approach tailored to facilitate dialogue across difference.

It originated as a means of bringing together campus-based students with incarcerated students for a semester-long course held in a prison, jail or other correctional setting. While those core Inside-Out Prison Exchange courses have been replicated across the United States and in multiple countries since its inception in 1997, the program has expanded into a variety of other forms of educational and community-based programming. It also has grown into an international network of trained faculty, students, alumni, think tanks, higher education and correctional administrators, and other stakeholders actively engaged with, and deeply committed to, social justice issues.

Learn more at the Inside-Out Prison Exchange website

WVU Inside-Out Academic Course SOCA 433

The core of the Inside-Out Program is a semester-long academic course (SOCA 433), meeting once a week, through which 15 to 18 “outside” students and the same number of “inside” students attend class together inside a 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 of the class, 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. Inside-Out creates a paradigm shift for participants, encouraging transformation and change agency in individuals and, in so doing, serves as an engine for social change.

It’s this space where everything is purely educational. We don’t know anything about each other. We just come into this space ready to learn together. And I think that is a very, very rare thing.

Destinee Harper

Graduate Teaching Assistant for the inaugural course of West Virginia Univesity’s Higher Education in Prison Initiative, English Drama