The Ohio State University at Marion

Inside-Out looks to break down cell walls

April 10, 2018
Lantern features Chaney and the Inside-Out program

Pictured above: Outsiders Vicki (left) and Cynthia (right) partner with Insiders during a 2014 class session. Courtesy: Brenda Chaney

By Ashley Nelson: for the April 9, 2018 edition of The Lantern

Brenda Chaney made her first trip to the Ohio Reformatory for Women in 1978. She was a teaching assistant at Ohio State to a professor instructing a class about prisons in the United States.

Forty years later, she has found a continued purpose inside its walls.

“It’s an entirely different place,” Chaney said. “When I was here for the first time, there were no fences around, there was no barbed wire, it was totally different.”

The outside of the ORW has changed, and so has what happens on the inside.

Now a senior lecturer in sociology at Ohio State, Chaney is an instructor for the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, a program that brings “outside” students from surrounding colleges together with “inside” students currently serving time in correctional facilities for a collaborative-learning environment.

“The real reason that I was attracted to this program is because I think who ends up in prison and who doesn’t is largely determined by the family they grew up in and the neighborhood they grew up in when none of us get to choose that,” Chaney said. “If my students learn anything at all it should be that they’re not different from each other.”

The program aims to create two-way discussions about issues such as crime, justice and other social concerns by having students work together.

To date, Inside-Out has reached 45 states and expanded overseas to 10 additional countries with more than 800 trained instructors teaching courses ranging from criminology to philosophy. More than 30,000 students have taken an Inside-Out class, and there are now 20 instructors teaching the program at universities throughout Ohio.