Behind the walls

News Release Date: 

College students and prisoners can learn valuable lessons from each other

Spring quarter 2012, Ohio State Marion Sociology Lecturer Brenda Chaney hopes to lead a group of college students on a journey behind the walls of the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio to take part in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange.

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program creates avenues for social change through education and civic engagement.  By generating opportunities for those incarcerated and college students to come together and learn in the same classroom, Inside-Out opens the door for people to gain an education that emphasizes collaborative learning and problem-solving.

With the goal of offering this as an official course at Ohio State Marion this spring, Chaney’s students and the prisoners taking part in the program would write papers, read books, discuss social issues, do presentations, and take part in a graduation ceremony.

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange is a national program, headquartered at Temple University.  Started in 2003, the program encompasses 123 colleges and universities with 7500 students involved to date.  Chaney learned of the program from Ohio State Newark Assistant Professor of Sociology Angela Harvey, who has taken part in the Inside-Out Exchange Program with her students on the Newark campus.

Chaney believes there is a valuable lesson for students and prisoners alike in the program.

“Students will learn that there is a fine line between who goes to prison and who goes to college,” she said.  “Students will learn that a slight change in circumstance could put them in the other place.”

In terms of her growth as an Ohio State faculty member, Chaney sees nothing but positives coming from this experience.

“My main emphasis as auxiliary faculty is teaching.  I think it will allow me to better teach students about prisons and prisoners.  I would also like to present at conferences about the experience, and beyond that, to write about the experience that I have with the students and the prisoners.”

“I think that everyone should go behind the walls of a prison at some time in their adult life,” expressed Chaney. 

She believes the students will find that, Prison is “a fascinating world, and the stereotypes people have about prison and prisoners are very wrong.”

“As a society, if we can reduce the number of people who go back to prison, we’ll all benefit,” she concluded.

Chaney will soon take part in specialized training provided by the Inside-Out program, which was partially paid for by a faculty development grant.  She feels the course can benefit any student, but in particular those planning on entering the fields of criminology, sociology, and psychology.