Students at Durham University are being set the bench mark by some prisoners who are scoring higher marks for essays as part of a ground-breaking academic course, known as Inside Out.
The Inside-Out programme is a teaching model that originated from the USA where ‘Outside’ students (university) go into a local prison each week to be taught alongside and as equals with a group of ‘Inside’ (prison) students. University students are chosen dependent on successfully completing the recruitment process which includes an interview process with instructors, mandatory prison training and security clearance at a level appropriate to attendance.
The Inside-Out programme at Durham University is an opportunity for Criminology students to take one of their modules as an Inside-Out course within prison, which is not available anywhere in the UK. All third year criminology undergraduates and some Masters students have the option to complete a fully accredited criminology module inside a nearby prison for one afternoon each week for ten weeks.
However, it is not just the students who benefit; prisoners also participate as students and are prepared by studying the same texts, holding discussions and then writing up essays on aspects of criminology and the justice system. Some prisoners are already working at university level by studying with the Open University.
Durham University operates a rolling programme of undergraduate and postgraduate Inside-Out courses, as well as one-off master classes, at HMP Frankland Category A men’s prison, HMP Durham Category B men’s prison and HMP Low Newton women’s prison.
The course creates a transformative learning experience through critical thinking; collaborative problem solving and group work with students receiving the same formal academic credit, as well as a certificate, for completing the course.
All contact between students and prisoners at the end of the course must cease for security reasons and both sets of students were vetted prior to participation.
Jermain James former Frankland prisoner was considering studying for a Masters after completing the programme. He said:
"It changed everybody. Some students cried at the end because they saw themselves in us, as humans that make mistakes, likewise we saw ourselves in them as people who make mistakes but had the ability to change their prospects and gain social change via transformative education…”
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