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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Students and Inmates Gain New Perspectives in Inside-Out Program

A recent NPR article describes the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which over one hundred colleges and universities worldwide will participate in this year.

Founded in 1997, the Inside-Out Program consists of traditional college students – “outside students” – taking semester-long courses alongside inmates – “inside students.” The Inside-Out Program’s website lays out one of the principle purposes of the program: it “creates avenues for social change through education and civic engagement” and “opens the door for people to gain an education that emphasizes collaborative learning and problem-solving.”

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An Inside-Out course in progress. Source: NPR.

The courses help create dialogue between these outside and inside students that in turn help break down traditional stereotypes and misconceptions held by and about both groups. Lori Pompa, one of the founders of the Inside-Out Program, says, “What dialogue does is it helps to make the walls between us more permeable.”

One of the inmates active in the Inside-Out Program, Paul, says that the program “humanizes people on both sides of these walls.” Paul was the inmate who suggested to Pompa that the conversations happening between visiting Temple University students and inmates continue, spurring Pompa to found the Inside-Out Program. The program’s benefits align with the push for mroe

Although Paul is serving a life-sentence, he is pursuing his master’s degree. “My mission in life now is to leave a better legacy than the one I had left when I came to prison,” says Paul, noting that the Inside-Out Program “gives you the freedom to care again. The freedom to feel again.”

To visit the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program’s website, click here.

To read the full NPR story on the Inside-Out Program, click here.

To watch and hear Lori Pompa discuss the program, click here.