Learning the criminal justice system, from the inside out

May 03, 2017

Criminal justice students work with an inmate in a classroom setting at a local prison

Eight undergraduates developed a unique perspective of confinement and the socio-economic implications of mass incarceration in America as part of a new Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program criminal justice seminar.

“Our ‘outside students’ were able to walk out of the theoretical and philosophical and in to the real world of consequence,” said Steve McGuinn, assistant professor of criminal justice. The experience was truly transformative.”

Diversity and equality are hallmarks of the Inside-Out Seminar.

“This class was an incredible opportunity for me as a criminal justice major, but also just as a person in general because the issues that are central to this program are pertinent to the lives of everyone — criminal or not,” said Amanda ’19.

In learning together, both the university students and current prisoners are evaluated and treated equally, complete the same assignments and read the same texts. Together, the 16 students discuss numerous issues ranging from citizenship and identity to social class, race, gender, community and racism.

“The Inside-Out seminar allows for constructive and challenging dialogue with a unique, diverse and unconventional composition of students,” McGuinn said. “Because the prison context is so powerful, open dialogue in this environment challenges fallacies. The students discover that one label does not define anyone.”

For the students involved, many of whom hope to be lawyers, social workers, or law enforcement officers, Inside-Out was an invaluable and eye-opening experience that challenged them on multiple levels.

“Most students who study the criminal justice system will work in the justice system once they graduate,” McGuinn said. “Inside-Out exposes them to the world they are entering and allows them to see beyond stereotypes, misconceptions and biases.”

Stay in the Loop

Sign Up Now