The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is an educational program with an innovative pedagogical approach tailored to effectively facilitate dialogue across difference. It originated as a means of bringing together campus-based college 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 nearly 20 years ago, 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.
The Inside-Out praxis stems from the belief that our society is strengthened when higher education/learning is made widely accessible and, at the same time, when it allows participants to encounter each other as equals, often across profound social barriers. The practice of bringing incarcerated (inside) and non-incarcerated (outside) people together for engaged and informed dialogue allows for transformative learning experiences that invite participants to take leadership in addressing crime, justice, and other issues of social concern. The Inside-Out pedagogy and methodology create these collaborative, creative contexts.
The Inside-Out Center, based at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the international hub of The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. It serves as the focal point for maintaining, growing, and disseminating the program’s vision, values, and methods, and provides the administrative nucleus for the program’s activities. In addition to carrying out an active schedule of public speaking, media coordination, and information sharing, the Center conducts the program’s weeklong International Instructor Training Institutes, alternative training programs for other venues and situations, and a variety of support initiatives for both trained faculty and alumni. Click here to learn more about the Inside-Out Center staff, advisory boards and programs.
Inside-Out Think Tanks are groups of Inside-Out alumni (both incarcerated and non-incarcerated) and/or trained Inside-Out faculty who meet regularly on a volunteer basis at a correctional facility. The groups form organically, based on local interests and initiatives, and are a testament to the civic engagement, human connection, and sense of agency that Inside-Out courses inspire. Think Tanks operate with the Inside-Out model, which facilitates learning via community building across social difference. Think Tanks develop their own projects, which may include leadership development, re-entry programs, training Inside-Out faculty, or community workshops on topics such as restorative justice, conflict resolution, and racial inequality. Click here to learn more about the nearly two dozen Think Tanks now operating around the world.
Education in which we are able to encounter each other, especially across profound social barriers, is transformative and allows problems to be approached in new and different ways. Inside-Out’s mission is to create opportunities for people inside and outside of prison to have transformative learning experiences that emphasize collaboration and dialogue and that invite them to take leadership in addressing crime, justice, and other issues of social concern.
We believe that, by studying together and working on issues of crime, justice, and related social concerns, those of us inside and outside of prison can catalyze the kinds of changes that will make our communities more inclusive, just, humane, and socially sustainable.