A taste of life on the inside
Class gives students an opportunity to look at life behind prison bars
Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 21:07
As Spring 2012 comes to a close, students of OSU’s first Inside-Out class look back on their experiences and share how they are helping the community because of it.
Inside-Out is a national prison exchange program that puts students and incarcerated criminals in a room together to learn about each other and discuss social issues. The class, SOC 499H, has students meet incarcerated students from the Oregon Youth Authority at Hillcrest Youth Correctional facility.
Talking with these prisoners has definitely challenged the students’ original thoughts on criminals and the justice system in general.
“During this class, I have begun to look at the incarcerated as actual individual people. Each has their own story,” said Alicia Logan, a junior in sociology.
“It’s definitely opened my eyes to different aspects of crime and how it affects communities,” said Sarah Ferrer, a student in biochemistry and biophysics. “I’ve learned they are definitely not all bad people, and are motivated to return to their communities and stop people from making the mistakes they did.”
“The class has provided me with the amazing opportunity [to] not only learn about our current correctional system and see it through the eyes of those incarcerated, but also to work on ways to improve it,” Logan said, referring to the group projects they’ve been working on over the course of the term.
Ferrer’s group is working on a packet of information for newly released inmates. The packet gives advice on issues such as housing options, college loans, budgets, car maintenance and even affordable diets. The group did this to help inmates transition more comfortably back into society.
Another group is working to raise money for Man Up Oregon by holding a bake sale on Thursday and Friday of dead week. Man Up Oregon is a division of the nationwide organization Man Up, which aims to help convicted male youth offenders transition back into society following the completion of their incarceration.
Jamie Gregory, a major in music education, believes the organization is very important for local youth. “It can really get our community members involved by serving as mentors and counselors, and it can show our community that restorative justice is a good alternative and an effective tool to help our current justice system.”
Logan’s group is focusing on multiple projects. The first is creating and publishing a website that will “display stories, poems, artwork and advice from both inside (incarcerated) and outside (OSU) students,” Logan said. “Through these works, viewers could get a better feeling for what the incarcerated are really like. Young viewers could read their stories and advice, and hopefully learn from them to prevent the same crimes from occurring again.” The website will also be focusing on raising awareness of mandatory minimum sentencing.
With the help of their professor, Michelle Inderbitzen, the group’s second project is to create a program that will “enable incarcerated fathers at Hillcrest to see their children on a more consistent and less restricted basis,” said Sam Settelmeyer, a physics major. “The presence of a male role model in the lives of youth has been shown by research to be beneficial, so we are working to better connect father and child.”
The students are all very grateful to have taken part in the class and encourage other students to take advantage of it in future terms. “This class is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Settelmeyer said. “It does a great job of sparking student interest in making a difference and walks us through starting to do just that.”
Katja Kozber, reporter
On Twitter: @KatjaKozber