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Bay State College Criminal Justice Students Participate in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program

By Meaghan Cayer on April 4, 2017
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What happens when Bay State College Criminal Justice students and incarcerated students come together in the same class? Transformation, says Criminal Justice professor Bill Morrissette. 

That's exactly what happens in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which Bay State College has partnered with for the last four years. In the program, incarcerated ("inside") students and "outside" students from local colleges come together behind prison walls to take a college course together. 

"In this environment, you have criminals and you have people who are training to become criminal justice professionals coming together, and they both need to understand where the other is coming from," says Professor Morrissette, who initiated the partnership between Inside-Out and Bay State College. 

How is this accomplished? The Inside-Out Program has a specific model meant to foster a deeper understanding between students. Students sit every other (inside, outside, inside, etc.) in a semicircle. The course itself is taught in a seminar style, so that all students have the opportunity to collaborate and discuss the issues and principles from the curriculum. This semester, students took the course Incarceration, Rehabilitation and Reentry with Professor Carolyn Riley at the Boston Pre-Release Center

"I don't know of any student who has come out of [the program] without a different perception of what a person who commits a crime is, or who an inmate is," says Professor Morrissette. "As people are incarcerated, we deliberately dehumanize them and then it's very hard to rehumanize them again. [Rehumanizing] is exactly what happens with this program. You don't go in there and see an inmate. You see a man or a woman, or a son or a daughter, a college graduate, someone who's three credits away from graduating from BU... this is a human being. We deliberately dehumanize because it's easier for us to perform difficult functions against them, but it's very critical for us to rehumanize them once they're coming out of that system. We struggle as a society to do that." 

Although the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is especially applicable to our Criminal Justice students, any Bay State student can join the program. To learn more, contact Bill Morrissette at wmorrissette@baystate.edu and speak with your Academic Advisor regarding your upcoming class schedule.

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