Prison student exchange a 'win-win' for students on both sides

Prison student exchange a 'win-win' for students on both sides

Inside Out is an innovative education program allowing groups of incarcerated students (inside) to study alongside RMIT University students (outside).

It is the only program of its kind in Australia, with RMIT partnering with Corrections Victoria for the program in 2015 and operating across four prisons in the state.

Undergraduate and postgraduate students from the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies join incarnated students in the prison setting and study together a subject ‘Comparative Criminal Justice Systems’ for a semester – two hours a week for 13 weeks.

University students gain a rare insight into the human and social elements of incarceration.

Chelsea, a graduate of the Bachelor of Criminal Justice, said participating in Inside Out helped her break down prejudices and gain a better understanding of those on the inside.

“Going into the experience, I anticipated a lot of really scary people, a lot of scary men, a lot of scary walls, a lot of guards; it didn’t feel like that at all,” she said.

“For me, having that knowledge before continuing in my career and finishing the degree was very important.”

The program is simultaneously beneficial for the incarcerated students, preparing them for life upon release and building their self-esteem, motivation and critical thinking skills.

These skills are intended to provide motivation for further education leading to employment – a reliable predictor of reduced re-offending.

Michael, an inside student, said the Inside Out experience was life changing.

“I would urge anyone that finds themselves in prison to engage with it. Get involved, because it’ll change your life,” he said.

“Leaving the first session, the guys and I just couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces, and we were going back into our cells to be locked up, but we were the happiest people on earth.

“The more I interacted with the outside student on a very honest and open level, the more they learned – these are people going into the criminal justice system into all avenues and it was kind of like win-win.”

The program was introduced to Australia by Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Justice Studies, Dr Marietta Martinovic, who was inspired by the powerful outcomes of Inside Out program at Temple University, Pennsylvania.

The Inside-Out program has educated more than 300 students since its inception in Australia in 2015.

Martinovic said the success of the program is owed to the generosity of the inside students.

“Their ability and willingness to share their stories and their journeys with complete strangers, with the aim and hope that these people will be working in the criminal justice system in the future, is truly what makes this program so valuable,” Martinovic said.

“They’re helping them have an understanding and compassion for people who come before them [later on in their career] and that is a huge investment.”

Senior Lecturer Marietta Martinovic with Inside student, Michael. Senior Lecturer Marietta Martinovic with Inside student, Michael.

After the program, incarcerated students and university students can apply their insights in prison-based Think Tanks, which have already gone on to produce more than 20 reports directly to Corrections Victoria, thereby influencing positive policy changes during and post incarceration.

 

Story: Caleb Scanlon

25 November 2020

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25 November 2020

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  • Legal & justice
  • Social services
  • Student experience

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