Today Magazine Winter 2020 - Page 4

Learning CRIMINAL JUSTICE from the INSIDE OUT By: Deb O'Reilly T his fall, GMercyU launched a new experiential learning opportunity for Criminal Justice majors called the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program ® . The program, used by colleges around the world, brings incarcerated and non- incarcerated students together as peers to inspire social change through dialogue and collaboration. Beginning in September, 15 GMercyU “outside” students – the program’s inaugural class – attended 13 meetings with “inside” students at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia. Each weekly meeting was roughly two and a half hours long and consisted of guided dialogue on topics spanning crime, justice, the criminal justice system, corrections, and imprisonment. “Realizing there’s another group of people just like you who were incarcerated because of different life circumstances is a truly transformative experience for students and instructors alike,” said Associate Professor and Criminal Justice Program Coordinator, Patrick McGrain, PhD, who teaches the program at GMercyU. “You can’t get this kind of experience in the classroom or even through an internship.”  Criminal Justice major, Mackenzie Iocona '20, one of GMercyU’s “outside” students, agreed. “It gets you to see the system and the people that are a part of it,” she said. “It gives you a whole new perspective. It definitely inspired me to want to be an advocate, to be that voice for people who don’t necessarily know what they’ve gotten into or have been treated wrongly by the system.” 2 TODAY To be selected for the program at the Federal Detention Center, the “inside” students must be serving time for the commission of a nonviolent offense and complete an interview process with the Reentry Affairs Coordinator at the Federal Detention Center. The “outside” students must have junior or senior standing at Gwynedd Mercy University and be interviewed and approved by Dr. McGrain. In order to bring the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program ® to GMercyU, Dr. McGrain completed a week-long training course at FCI-Hazelton, a maximum-security prison in West Virginia and one of several Inside-Out training sites throughout the country. The GMercyU Inside-Out meetings at the Federal Detention Center were complemented by coursework that includes several required texts, a cost that none of the "inside" students were able to cover. However, Dr. McGrain worked with book publishers and bookstores to receive the books as donations or at discounted prices. The New Press donated one of the texts for the course. Lisa McGarry, PhD, the Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, generously covered the cost of two other texts, and Dr. McGrain covered the cost of the remaining books. At the