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Think Out Loud

Class in Prison


Pete Springer/OPB

Have you ever wondered what life is like behind bars? This is the experience college students hope to gain when they participate in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. It’s a national program that was initially brought to the West Coast in 2007 by Michelle Inderbitzin, an associate professor of sociology at Oregon State University, along with professors from the University of Oregon and Portland State University.

For one or two semesters a year, Inderbitzin brings about 15 students to maximum-security prison, once a week, where they meet with the same number of “inside” students. Together they read, talk about their lives, and try to gain a common understanding and respect for each other. Slightly different versions of the program are also offered at the University of Oregon and Portland State University.

A few months ago we went to OSU to talk with Inside-Out students — current college students and ex-convicts who took the class when they were behind bars.

What do you want to know about life in prison? If you took part in the Inside-Out program, from either side, what did you learn?

Editor’s Note: After our broadcast we asked the Inside-Out class, “what did we miss?” Check out the extended conversation about the connections made between the students in the program.

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