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Inside-out graphic header image

About Us

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program®

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.

The Inside-Out Praxis

The Inside-Out praxis is grounded in 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

The Inside-Out Center, based at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the international hub of The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program®. The Center 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 programs for other venues and situations, and a variety of support initiatives for both Inside-Out faculty and alumnni. Click here to learn more about the Inside-Out Center staff, advisory boards, and programs.

The Story of Inside-Out

In 1995, Lori Pompa, a professor in the Criminal Justice Department at Temple University, took a group of 15 undergraduate students to the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, PA for a tour of the facility. Here’s what happened next... Click here for more.

In 1995, Lori Pompa, a professor in the Criminal Justice Department at Temple University, took a group of 15 undergraduate students to the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, PA for a tour of the facility. Here’s what happened next.

As part of the tour, Lori and her students met with a panel of men who were incarcerated there, most of whom were serving life sentences. During the panel discussion, they touched on a variety of issues – social, economic, political, racial, psychological, philosophical – as they related to crime and justice. After this engaging, hour-long conversation, the time was up, but no one wanted to leave. 

As Lori and her students were about to depart, a panelist named Paul approached Lori, suggesting that the conversation could be expanded over the course of a semester. It could, essentially, be a semester-long course where incarcerated and non-incarcerated students would read the same assignments, write papers, and engage in discussion together each week. Lori told Paul that it was an intriguing idea and promised him that she would consider it. However, she knew that the logistics of bringing students on a weekly basis to a facility 120 miles away from Philadelphia were far too challenging.

Yet, in the days after her visit to Dallas, Lori couldn’t stop thinking about Paul’s suggestion. She began to strategize ways to make this program work at a correctional facility closer to the university. Lori approached the Philadelphia Prison System and, in 1997, began teaching a course entitled “The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program: Exploring Issues of Crime and Justice behind the Walls.” Paul’s idea was put into practice and The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program® was born.

In 2000, other Temple faculty joined Lori in teaching Inside-Out courses and two years later, The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program® expanded to Graterford Prison (now SCI-Phoenix), a state correctional facility an hour outside of Philadelphia. By pure coincidence, Paul had been transferred to Graterford and was able to take the first Inside-Out course offered there, which Lori taught. When that course ended, the inside and outside students decided to continue meeting, conversing, and working to raise public awareness about issues of crime, justice, and mass incarceration. Thus, the Graterford Think Tank was initiated, which began holding public workshops, extending the Inside-Out dialogic learning experience to an audience beyond college students.

Having been awarded a Soros Justice Senior Fellowship, Lori was able to begin working with a team of people, including inside and outside alumni, to develop replication criteria and materials for expanding the program across the country. In July 2004, the Graterford Think Tank hosted the inaugural instructor training, launching the first of now 92 Inside-Out Training Institutes, which have equipped nearly 1,500 college/university professors (and other educators) from around the world to teach Inside-Out courses. 

An idea conceived in a prison classroom 25 years ago has now grown into an international movement comprised of more than 200 correctional and higher education partnerships, nearly 1,500 trained instructors, over two dozen think tanks, and more than 65,000 students worldwide who have benefited from these life-changing courses. Click here to close paragraphs.

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Inside-Out students

Click here to apply to the 2024 Inside-Out Instructor Training Institutes.