Inside-Out courses provide unique opportunities to bring Towson University students and incarcerated students together inside a correctional institution to learn together as peers.
Based on feedback from TU students who have participated in Inside-Out courses in the past, the opportunity to meaningfully engage with people in correctional settings is profound and life-changing:
Inside-Out was the most eye-opening experience I have had; it has changed me for the better and opened my eyes to issues and ideas within the criminal justice system that I had not thought of before.—Towson University student
The course has been instrumental in shaping TU students’ views of the criminal justice system and the reforms that are needed to make it function more humanely. This program makes important contributions to the university’s strategic goal of experiential learning opportunities for students and to the mission of training students to make informed ethical choices.
Incarcerated students in Inside-Out classes benefit, too. As one student reflected:
[The] class has meant a lot to me. You guys treated us as if we were really people and not inmates. Best two days of the week. Best college class.”—Incarcerated student
Inside students gain exposure to college-level curriculum and opportunities to place their lived experiences in a larger theoretical framework. Most importantly, inside students gain a renewed sense of inclusion in the human community—this is often denied for people in our prisons and jails.
Expanding Inside-Out partnership opportunities
Currently, four College of Liberal Arts faculty teach Inside-Out classes: Elyshia Aseltine (Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice), Ashley Kilmer (Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice), Michelle Manasse (Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice), and Emily Parker (Philosophy and Women’s & Gender Studies). We have partnerships with two local facilities, the Baltimore County Detention Center and the Harford County Detention Center and plans are in the works for a third partnership with a federal reentry facility in Baltimore City.
With a 2018–2019 priority investment through BTU—Partnerships at Work for Greater Baltimore and generous support from the Provost’s Office, and the Deans of Health Professions and the College of Fine Arts and Communication, the number of faculty trained to teach Inside-Out courses will grow to eleven by summer 2019. In the future, Inside-Out classes will be offered by Cynthia Cooper (Communication Studies), Walter Dearborn (Health Sciences), Amanda Emmert (Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice), Tavia La Follette (Theatre Arts), Jennifer Potter (Communication Studies), Briana Snyder (Nursing), and Evangeline Wheeler (Psychology). This growth will greatly expand opportunities for students from across the university to participate in Inside-Out classes within their discipline or when taking Core Curriculum courses.
In addition to bringing Towson University students inside, BTU priority investment will bolster efforts to support people with criminal records in their pursuit of higher education. These efforts are in keeping with the spirit of recent Maryland state legislation that limits the ability of state universities to screen applicants based on prior criminal convictions. In spring 2019, TU hosted the first convening of a working group whose focus will be building awareness about the challenges people with criminal records face and reducing barriers to higher education for those with criminal records. The working group includes representatives from across campus, including representatives from Student Affairs and Academic Affairs.