About the program itself...Each Inside Out class consists of approximately 15 "inside students", selected from the general prison population, combined with an equal number of "outside students", selected from the local associated university. The class then meets inside the prison each week, for a full semester, to participate in an accredited college course. The university professor and each of the outside students must all submit to all the rules, regulations and security procedures of the prison in order to gain weekly admittance. Federal facilities are especially restrictive when it comes to allowing non-staff members into the institution, and unfortunately our class experienced that reality first hand when we were delayed or cancelled on more than one occasion due to security concerns. I know that it was a bit intimidating for those outside students initially but, to their credit, they all seemed to value the experience and I never once heard any of them complain.
University professors who are interested in facilitating the Inside Out Program must first attend a special training course inside Graterford State Prison, where the program originated. My Inside Out Professor, Dr. Tony Gaskew was a retired DEA Agent, accomplished author, and highly respected University of Pittsburgh Criminal Justice Professor who completed his training there and then somehow managed to convince certain FBOP officials and FCI McKean Warden Bobby Meeks to allow him to teach from the highly controversial book titled "The New Jim Crow....Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Colorblindness" by Michele Alexander. Dr. Gaskew did a masterful job of providing us with hard statistics, followed by thought provoking inquiries, that always guided our discourse toward a new insight or meaningful conclusion. I can state with great confidence that the diversity of views and well articulated arguments concerning the U.S. criminal justice system shared here at FCI McKean rivaled that found inside any esteemed college classroom or lecture hall across the country.
My Inside Out experience helped to not only reshape my personal vision for the future but it also created a plethora of opportunities that are now transforming that very vision into reality. As I reviewed my weekly "reflection" papers, each one an attempt to articulate of my views concerning our most recent reading assignment or class discussion, I was amazed by all that had transpired over the course of a single semester. When I wrote these papers I had no intention of ever sharing them, primarily because I didn't think anyone would be interested in what I had written. However, after responding to a number of recent queries about them, I figured that posting them as a blog might prove beneficial to the future expansion of the program, and/or to someone else similarly situated. I have no qualms about "putting myself out there" for someone else's benefit.
Please keep in mind that these are only MY personal views, unless a specific source is cited, and they have been shaped by my nearly 17 years of incarceration since the age of 18. Enjoy the read and feel free to leave your questions or comments below...A