September 23, 2019
Bio: Dr. Marietta Martinovic (BA, Sir John Minogue Medal, MA, APA, PhD) is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Justice at RMIT University in Melbourne in Australia. She has been leading the development and implementation of the first Australian Inside-Out Prison Exchange program, which simultaneously engages university students and prisoners in university-level education. She has also been leading three prison-based Think Tanks. On the basis of teaching in prisons Marietta has received two RMIT Teaching Excellence Awards in 2017. Her key research interests are electronic monitoring, incarceration and teaching in prisons.
DK: In this episode of the Inside-Out Podcast, I speak with Dr. Marietta Martinovic, who teaches criminal justice at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology or RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Professor Martinovic took the Inside-Out Instructor Training in 2008 and taught her first Inside-Out course in an Australian prison in 2015. I spoke with Marietta to ask her about the challenges of setting up the class, the effects it has had on her students, and how she plans to expand Inside-Out in Australia and beyond.
Audio Clip of Marietta’s Interview
DK: I’m Dave Krueger from the Inside-Out Center, the international headquarters of The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program based at Temple University in Philadelphia and this is the Inside-Out Podcast. Stay tuned for the conversation with Dr. Martinovic after this word by Tyrone Werts.
Audio Clip of Tyrone Werts Describing the Program
The Inside-Out prison exchange program is a program that facilitates dialogue and education across social barriers. Inside out courses bring traditional college students and incarcerated students together in jails and prisons for a semester long of learning. These courses unite enthusiasm for learning helps students find their voice, and challenges students to consider what good citizenship requires. Since the first class in 1997 inside out has grown into an international network of nearly 1,000 trained instructors from across the US and several countries. Correctional and higher education institutions have partnered to create opportunities for more than 35,000 inside and outside students to move beyond the walls that separate them. We are more than a program we are changing the world.
DK: So Marietta, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? You know, where are you from and how did you end up becoming a professor in criminal justice?
MM: So I moved to Australia when I was 13 years old and we left Bosnia as war refugees because a civil war broke out in the country where we lived so I was very lucky we moved pretty much before the war even started and have lived in Australia for the last 25 years. So upon resettling here I finished high school. I always knew I wanted to become a teacher but then I got interested in legal studies at high school and so I studied criminal justice and criminology and that got me interested in corrections. And so I developed a passion, really, to try and rehabilitate people, to help people, who are caught up in the criminal justice system and kinda things like that.
DK: So how did you first get interested in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program model of education?
MM: So my very first job post-university was working as a community corrections officer which involves supervising people on probation and parole type orders. And so there I realized just how difficult and complex it is for these people to try and break the cycle of re-offending and offending, and to reintegrate back into society. But I also recognize the importance of criminal justice practitioners having empathy toward those caught up in the criminal justice system. So when I heard about Inside-Out and what it does I realized this would provide me with a unique opportunity to teach graduates compassion and understanding of this often maligned group of people.
DK: You came to the United States to take one of these trainings. What year did you take the training?
MM: I took the training in 2008, but I actually met Lori Pomper and the Graterford Think Tank during a conference in 2005. And it was actually a congress of criminology – The world congress of criminology – which was held in Philadelphia, and there was an advertisement saying “as part of this congress you could spend a day at the Graterford prison” and of course, due to my interest I jumped at that opportunity and I just absolutely fell in love with the whole idea. I was so inspired by the strength of the think tank’s real ability to provide insight into crime and justice that I thought “I must do this”. So of course, you know, a few years later I won a teaching award, had some money and I got myself to the U.S. and got trained.
DK: So how did the training impact you? Did it open up some new ways of thinking about the way you teach? How did it shape the way you became an educator?
MM: I think it has made me a much better academic in all honesty. I used to do a lot of teaching as I was taught. Kind of a talking head in front of many students without too much involvement or discussion, you know things like that. Post the training, I completely changed how I teach, and once I started teaching inside-out classes I would bring inside-out examples into all my other classes so of course, you know, everybody kind of was exposed to Inside-Out directly or indirectly just because it is such an amazing way of teaching because it includes people, but it includes people in such a profound way it includes them in terms of equality, compassion, understanding, it is just absolutely amazing.
DK: Did you face any challenges at setting up an inside-out course in a new country? I mean you took the training and you went back to Australia and you were really kind of on your own. What was it like trying to convince others and convince correctional institutions that this was a viable program that was worth being involved in?
MM: Well I can tell you it was a very hard road. That took close to eight years, you know, on and off me kind of pushing the barrel forward and to really try and get the program started. But, i was so inspired when I came back from the training in 2008 that I thought “this is just the best. It just has to be done straight away”. I faced many barriers and the first and key one was from corrections Victoria who said, “You wanna do what?” Well you know all they could see was all of these risks, all of these problems that could happen and I very quickly got the sense that this was not going to be possible. I went back to the university all disappointed and the university personnel and said “well you know we think that this is very scary as well” and I’m thinking “what's so scary??” Of course there's going to be some risks but they can be managed you know there are appropriate ways to managing those and so forth and so on. So, I faced a lot of opposition to say the least and then in 2013 I caught up with Lori, kind of without too much planning, and Lori just reignited all my interest and said “oh you should give it another go” because you all know Lori, she’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, anyway – We had such a fantastic conversation and I went back to corrections and I said “Well how about it again, you know, after so many years you know, the program has grown immensely” and I was kind of able to show that and they said “Okay! We’ll put a call out to the prisons and we’ll see if any prison takes it up and two prisons put their hand up and the rest is kind of history so we started teaching – I started teaching in 2015, and it’s been absolutely life changing.
DK: And how many courses have you taught since 2015?
MM: So every year I teach two courses and I teach males and females kind of at the same time, but they’re obviously at different facilities.
DK: Okay so it’s been several courses that you’ve taught?
DK: What kind of an impact do you think that Inside-Out courses have had on both your inside and your outside students? Could you say a little bit more about the long-term impact or even short or long term impact that these courses have had?
MM: Yes, of course. So I think the inside students are really grateful about having an opportunity to discuss their lived experience of the criminal justice system. And of course they have so much to offer, they have amazing personal insights on how the system can improve, how it can be made better. So this then gives the university students a real unforgettable, life-changing experience about their future practice in criminal justice because all that they know up until that point is all from textbooks so in a way the textbooks meet the lived experience and that's where the two worlds gell so they both have something to offer to one another. So yeah, experience is just amazing and I think it makes them a much better, well-rounded, more ethical – most importantly – criminal justice practitioner once they obtain employment in the field.
DK: One of the outcomes of Inside-Out courses around the world is that a number of the students want to continue to meet and to work together beyond the classroom experience and many of them have formed what are called “think tanks”. Now in Australia you, as I understand, you run two think-tanks: One is for women and one is for men. Could you say more about what a think-tank is and specifically what these think tanks are involved with and how they came about?
MM: Of course. So the first time I taught at the female prison, which is almost three years ago, the women basically themselves at the end of class said, “we really want to continue on” and these are the women on the inside. And they actually somehow knew about the Graterford Think Tank or they had remembered it from me mentioning it very early on and they said “we want to be an equivalent to the Graterford Think Tank” and I thought “Fantastic!” Because you know, the whole point is that these think-tanks actually operate and are formed on the basis of “this is what the people themselves want” so they need to grow organically, they really can’t be imposed by others and Lori teaches that and I think it’s absolutely correct – they’ve got to own it. And so we continued on all on a voluntary basis. About 12 inside students continued on and 12 outside students continued to meet fortnightly ever since. Of course we have had some people drop out due to employment, due to release, etcetera. But we have had, you know, we’ve topped up basically the numbers in the group by the subsequent Inside-Out programs. What do we do? Well, we contribute to corrections Victoria's policy making and we do that directly so we’ve really grown in prominence as an advocacy group which has been so so exciting as you can imagine for the women on the inside as well as the outsiders. So what happens is the prison officials, the people who belong to the prison executive, come over and give us topics for discussion. And then these topics, we come up with some strategies. So I’ll give you all an example of the most recent one that we worked on. It was a booklet written about – orientation booklet, sorry it was an orientation booklet made for the prisoners. So what the think tank ended up doing was coming up with a ten page version of the booklet which speaks directly to the women upon entry. So this 80-page booklet which is written at a very high level which is written by policy makers in head office has basically been, in many ways, useless to the women themselves. So we’ve come up with a version that makes sense and that is directly then implemented and given to the women upon entry in the facility. So of course they see that their work is meaningful, make sense, so it builds their self esteem, they become determined, they start having a voice within the prison because they say to the others in the compound “this is what we are working on. Can you contribute?” and so of course we have then other people contributing to think tank activities which is really really exciting.
DK: How do you think these correctional administrators have responded to Inside-Out courses over the years? Have you seen a shift? Has it been more of an increasing embrace? More of a trust built? How would you describe that relationship?
MM: I would say that certainly from very early on their would have been quite a bit of mistrust especially by the prison officers on the ground themselves and we faced a number of challenges to say the least and issues trying to become established basically the first time the program was offered. But, I've implemented various strategies to try and increase awareness by the people who work in the criminal justice systems as well, I.E, the prison officers, and there has been more and more trust, I must say, developed over the years. But in all honesty it has been a long hard road, but the women and the men have certainly helped they have never done anything to compromise the program so that has been really really good.
DK: What advice would you give to somebody who’s trying to start up an Inside-Out course in a new location? Do you have any advice for folks that are just getting started or maybe just have gone through the training?
MM: It kind of depends. If they are in a brand new country the *laughs* the advice is quite different to the way that it happened for me, than if they are within the United States because within the United States you have such an amazing framework already setup. But I’ve always believed that if you believe in something, it will happen. When I heard about Inside-Out, when I did the training, I honestly knew that I’m going to end up doing this. And many people along the way said “Oh this is impossible, there are so many obstacles, there are so many risks” I thought “It doesn’t matter, it is just a matter of time”. So I think if people are really, in their heart, feel that this is what they are gonna be doing, they will be doing it. So, just be persistent, my advice is. Be persistent if this is truly something you believe and you will get there. And in the United States you have such an amazing network of people who are so helpful, there’s always a way to do this. Always. The other thing that I probably want to mention here is that there is a person, an academic in New Zealand, who I'm now trying to help to also get established. So very recently I’ve actually come across somebody who has worked at – this is quite interesting – In New Zealand corrections and heard about Inside-Out and through conversations I said “You know, this kind of program does not exist in New Zealand which is such a pity” and he said “Oh well, why not?” You know it makes so much sense. So what I’ve done now is I’ve connected him to the academic and so hopefully they’ll be able to work something out in New Zealand. So, it’s all about, not just persistence, but it’s also all about connections, all about trust building, and you know surround yourself with people who have done it. They can offer a lot.
DK: So as you think of the different students you’ve met over the years and both inside students and outside students and many students, especially on the inside, are really in some very challenging life circumstances. As an educator, what gives you the most hope?
MM: I think people’s personal transformation gives me the most hope. And actually seeing that transformation first-hand, you know reading about it people’s reflections. When people on the inside make comments like “two hours a week I was free, and I was me”. That kind of comment is just immeasurable. And it’s a real impact you can actually see, you can feel, and that gives me absolute hope that people can in fact have a little bit of time off to themselves can personally develop through this journey and then hopefully can hold on to that upon exiting the institution. So I’m working with a number of people who have been released, obviously post doing the inside-out program on the inside, and I see that what they do so much is that they try to hold on to that positive experience in their everyday life and I find that absolutely amazing so that gives me absolute hope for all the work that I do.
DK: So what's next for inside-out Australia? What kinds of hopes and dreams do you have for the future?
MM: So, well. My future is all about Inside-Out, trust me, so what do I hope? I hope to be growing the program, that’s my very first hope. Personally in the state where I am, for the first time this year I am going to be offering the program in a private institution, so a private prison. So I’m so eager to see how this is going to go because if this goes very well there are other private prisons who could very well take up the option of having and running Inside-Out. I’m also going to be implementing another think tank, probably at that very same prison. I’m also going to be training other students and offering them like an internship so that they assist through the running of the Inside-Out program, so that in many ways the think-tanks, which I currently run, are not solely dependent on me but they are going to have other people who can kind of, very easily, step up to the opportunity and, when need be, run a think tank or step into running an inside-out class and things like that. Also in addition to all that, I would like to, at some point very early on, hopefully run a national training with Lori, together with Lori of course, down under for people in Australia.
DK: Marietta thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us here at the Inside-Out center, we wish you all the best and we’re so grateful for the work that you do.
MM: You’re very welcome, thank you.
Tyrone Werts: You've been listening to the Inside-Out Podcast, a production of The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. To find out more about the program or make a financial contribution please visit the website at insideoutcenter.org.
The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program:
The Inside-Out Podcast is hosted by David M. Krueger and is a production of The Inside-Out Center at Temple University in Philadelphia. The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is an educational program that facilitates dialogue across difference. It started in 1997 and originated as a means to bring together campus-based college students and incarcerated students for a semester-long course held in a correctional setting. This educational model has been replicated across the United States and in multiple countries. It has grown into an international network of more than 1,000 trained faculty, 38,000 alumni, and hundreds of higher education and correctional administrators, who have sponsored these classes over the years. Inside-Out seeks to bring about "Social Change Through Transformative Education."