Inside-Out Course Inspires Students Through Community-Based Learning
By Francis Pellicciaro
Outreach and Engagement Communications Student Intern
"You are today where your thoughts have brought you; You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you." - As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen.
This quote comes from an essay by a British philosophical writer who is known as one of the founders of the self-help movement. More than 100 years after the essay was published, the same quote was typed out in bright red lettering in the PowerPoint presentation of a former prisoner telling college students about how higher education had helped change his life.
The higher education experience that he cited as helping him the most was called Corrections: an Inside-Out Course. It is an Ohio State class where students visit the Southeastern Correctional Institute once each week and take a class together with people who are incarcerated.
"It made me feel good to know that I could be a college student," said Terry Green II, the aforementioned alumnus of the Inside-Out program, "it built me up to how I want to be active in my community."
"You never really hear about anybody who took this program coming back to prison," Green said.
The reduction of recidivism encouraged by higher education is just one reason why Corrections earned the 2015 Distinguished Service-Learning Award, one of the highest Ohio State awards for outreach and engagement.
"I wouldn't define it as service. I would define it as community – based learning," said Angela Bryant, the assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State's Newark campus who has taught Corrections for six years.
"The entire model is designed to break barriers between inside and outside students," Bryant said, "it's literally its own pedagogy."
It is a sociology class, available to be taken as a general education course, in which students learn various perspectives on crime and justice and are encouraged to see themselves as agents of social change.
"Every class is different because what shapes the class are the members of the class," Bryant said, "we sit in circles, and we are literally learning from one another."
Bryant says that she witnesses students realizing how much they are all alike, with incarcerated students realizing that the students from outside are not "snotty rich college kids," while students from the outside realize that the mistakes made by incarcerated students do not necessarily make them bad people.
"I had great interactions with the outside students," Green said, "different things that you wouldn't discuss in a large group."
Bryant said that course materials occasionally change partway through the semester in order to focus on meaningful topics that class discussions may have led to. Each semester of the class culminates in a group project looking at possible improvements of some aspect of the prison system, and the project is presented to prison officials.
Green found out about the course from another inmate at Southeastern Correctional Institute, where he was incarcerated from 2009-12.
He completed his GED and enrolled in Hocking College before taking the Inside-Out course, but said that Inside-Out was the best college experience he had while he was incarcerated.
Green said that the Inside-Out program helped him build a passion for wanting to learn and finish his post-secondary education. Once he left the correctional institute, he said he could not stop thinking about wanting to go back to college and he enrolled at Columbus State after his release.
Contact: Angela Bryant, firstname.lastname@example.org
Students interested in enrolling in the course for autumn semester 2015 should contact Dr. Bryant at email@example.com.
Inside-Out website: www.insideoutcenter.org