The Muhlenberg College Inside-Out Prison Exchange has an ongoing relationship with the Lehigh County Department of Corrections. Lehigh County has two corrections facilities – a minimum security Corrections Center and a maximum security Jail. We have taught Inside-Out courses in both facilitates.

The Inside-Out Program is a semester-long academic course, meeting once a week, through which 15 to 18 “outside” (i.e.: undergraduate) students and the same number of “inside” (i.e.: incarcerated) students attend class together (Pompa & Crabbe, 2013). All students read a variety of texts and write several papers; during class sessions, students discuss issues in small and large groups. Students also work together on small group semester long projects, which they present on the last day of class. The experience is mutually beneficial. In addition to learning psychological content, each group learns about the experiences of the other group, about whom they may have had preconceived notions.

The course is unlike any other at Muhlenberg. It gives outside students a tangible experience, where the research and growth extends beyond the classroom. By exploring the criminal justice system and the injustices it perpetuates, alongside incarcerated classmates, we (as outside classmates) are forced to face the realities of others and empathize, something a textbook cannot do. This experience, and the research I conducted alongside the course has propelled me and given my fire the fuel needed to pursue a graduate degree and become a future changemaker.

2019 course graduate and think tank member

The Writing in the Prisons course brings two Muhlenberg students to facilitate a creative writing class in the Lehigh Valley County Corrections Center.  In addition to facilitating weekly workshop sessions, Muhlenberg students meet periodically with the professor to discuss assigned readings and discuss drafts of a required writing project.  At the end of the semester, students create an anthology of the prisoner’s work and help organize a public reading for the class at Muhlenberg College.