Inside-out graphic header image
Inside-out graphic header image

Frequently Asked Questions

The Questions

Q: What makes the Inside-Out model unique?
A: The Inside-Out model is unique because incarcerated students and traditional campus-based students are in class together as peers, learning collaboratively, through a dialogic process. This is in contrast to most courses taught in correctional facilities, where the students are all incarcerated, as well as other programs where outside people come into correctional facilities to help or serve people who are incarcerated, where the focus is the transfer of skills and/or knowledge from the outside group to the inside population. In Inside-Out, it is a mutual exchange involving all participants.

Q: How can I decide if the Inside-Out model is appropriate for my institution?
A: (For correctional institutions) Inside-Out has been offered in virtually every kind of correctional institution in the country – including local, state, and federal facilities; maximum, medium, and minimum-security facilities (including work release programs); men’s, women’s, and juvenile institutions – so chances are, the model is probably appropriate for your institution, as well. However, no matter what the institution, it is important to have a way of selecting students who are likely to be invested in the experience – people who are interested in learning and in listening to what other people have to say. Courses tend to be most successful when both the incarcerated and campus-based students are as diverse as possible in terms of their backgrounds, life experiences, and perspectives. Correctional institutions that house only those with sexual offense convictions are the only kind of facility for which Inside-Out is not recommended. 

(For academic institutions) Inside-Out has been offered in a wide variety of institutions of higher learning around the world, from small private colleges to large research universities and from community colleges to graduate programs and law schools. Inside-Out courses span the humanities, social sciences, schools of education, social work, and law schools. Courses generally have a social justice component, but they have come from an array of subject areas, such as anthropology, economics, creative writing, criminal justice, gender studies, history, literature, nursing, philosophy, political science, psychology, public health, religion, and theater. The one thing that is necessary is that your school be within reasonable traveling distance of a correctional facility, usually an hour driving time or less. However, there have been situations in which the course structure was modified to accommodate courses in facilities that are farther away.

Q: How do I decide if the Inside-Out model is appropriate for me as an instructor?
A: The single most important element for a successful Inside-Out course experience is the instructor’s high degree of self-awareness, since teaching in a prison context can be emotionally demanding and may present many ethical challenges. In addition, it is essential that the instructor be skillful in handling the complicated class dynamics that exist in an Inside-Out situation while, at the same time, creating a sense of openness and safety for all of the students. Part of this involves being willing to use an experiential/interactive model of instruction, rather than utilizing a lecture format. All of these issues are addressed at the Inside-Out International Instructor Training Institute.

Q: How can I get more information about being trained as an instructor?
A: Please click on the International Inside-Out Instructor Training Institute page to learn more and/or begin the application process. If you like, The Inside-Out Center can put you in touch with someone who has already taken the training so that you can learn and ask questions about the experience first-hand.

Q: How can I make the case for Inside-Out inside my local correctional facility?
A: Because studies have shown that persons with more education are less likely to be re-incarcerated (and less likely to be involved with disciplinary problems during their incarceration), administrators at most correctional facilities are eager to offer educational programs. This is especially the case when classes can be made available with no financial cost to the correctional institution and participants. The main concerns of correctional officials are safety and the prevention of ongoing personal relationships between inside and outside students. The Inside-Out model is designed in a way that addresses both of these issues to the satisfaction of prison administration. Contact The Inside-Out Center if you would like to be connected with faculty, administrators, or corrections staff who are already part of our network.

Q: How safe is it to teach a class in prison?
A: Though nothing is without risk, teaching in prison is, actually, quite safe. For one thing, the administrators would never allow the class to happen at all if they thought there was a real safety concern. For another, those who might have a higher potential to cause a safety problem are screened out of participating in the course by corrections staff. Also, incarcerated participants tend to highly value the opportunity to participate in an Inside-Out course and would be unlikely to do anything to jeopardize it.

Q: I am not affiliated with an institution of higher education. 1) Can I still take the training? 2) Can I be an Inside-Out Instructor?
A: The Inside-Out Training Institutes are open to anyone; however, much of the content of the training is geared toward people teaching in higher education. Nevertheless, it is possible to facilitate an Inside-Out learning experience if you are not affiliated with a higher education institution by simply applying the pedagogy that you learn at the training to your context. For example, some instructors use the Inside-Out pedagogy for programming sponsored by non-profits and/or other agencies. NOTE: The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program® may only be used for Inside-Out college/university courses taught by trained Inside-Out instructors.

Q: What does it cost to teach an Inside-Out course?
A: Given that Inside-Out courses are usually offered by universities and colleges, they would typically be part of an instructor’s normal teaching load. The correctional institution bears the in-kind cost of hosting the course in their facility (e.g., space and staffing). Additional costs to the university or college may include books (or other reading materials) for inside students, travel costs for outside students, and matriculation and/or cost of credit for inside students. Given the logistical challenges involved with teaching in a correctional facility, there is also the cost of additional time, in terms of both travel and preparation. Inside-Out courses require more time than a typical on-campus course.

Q: Do inside students receive credit for Inside-Out courses?
A: The Inside-Out Center does not require that inside students receive credit. However, many higher education institutions do offer credit to incarcerated students, and they have found a variety of ways to cover the costs. Please consult The Inside-Out Center for suggestions.

Q: Does The Inside-Out Center hire instructors to teach in prison?
A: No. Instructors (including adjuncts, graduate students, non-tenure-track faculty, tenure-track or tenured faculty, etc.) must approach their own institutions of higher education or organization to sponsor the courses. The Inside-Out Center trains prospective instructors but does not employ them.

Q: I’ve never set foot in a prison; how do I learn what it takes to teach an Inside-Out course?
A: Enroll in an Inside-Out International Instructor Training Institute. Inside-Out has trained many instructors with no prison experience at all. The intensive training covers the practical, ethical, emotional, and pedagogical aspects of implementing an Inside-Out course. After instructors have been trained, they are eligible to receive whatever technical assistance they may need from The Inside-Out Center, as well as from trained faculty in their geographic area and/or disciplinary field of study.

Q: Do these classes take advantage of incarcerated people in any way?
A: These courses are specifically designed not to take advantage of those who are incarcerated. “Inside” students and “outside” students engage in collaborative learning, and the Inside-Out pedagogy emphasizes the value and equality of participant voices in the semester-long exchange.

Q: I’d like to start a course similar to this at my university. Do I have to call it “Inside-Out?"
A: Not necessarily. Of course, only instructors who have completed The International Inside-Out Instructor Training Institute can appropriately call their courses “The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program” or “Inside-Out.” That having been said, we do not recommend doing a class like this without adequate training. It is much more complex than it appears. It may seem like a great thing to do – and it is. However, if not done correctly, it can be potentially damaging.

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