Innovative Prison Program Bound for Australia

The ground-breaking American Inside-Out Prison Exchange program, which brings prison inmates and university students together in a classroom setting, could be heading to Australia.

Inside-Out Centre Founder and Director Lori Pompa, will attend a panel discussion in Sydney, hosted by the University of Sydney’s Institute of Criminology and Sydney Social Justice Network, to discuss the benefits of bringing the innovative model to Australia, titled “University Beyond Walls”, in late 2014.

According to the University of Sydney, this would be the first collaborative tertiary prison education course in Australia, with subjects proposed such as “Social Inequality in Australia”.

“We are very excited to see Inside-Out being embraced by instructors in Australia,”  Pompa said, “and hope that we can get the program going strongly over the next couple of years.”  

Inside-Out, which is based at Temple University in the US, has been running for 15 years, and has held about 500 classes involving more than 15,000 students both within and outside of the correctional system.

One of the challenges to face the program is the potential security issues accompanying taking undergraduate students into a prison setting, the university said.

“I think, over the years, our history has helped [alleviate these concerns], including the fact that we have had no serious security issues,” Pompa said.

“We have strict rules and parameters in the program that is central to creating a place that feels safe on many levels to those involved.”

Dr Laura Beth Bugg, from the Sydney Social Justice Network, recently spent a week in Canada attending Inside-Out instructor training where she learnt from women in a medium-max security prison.

“My experience at the training was very moving,” she said. “I was astounded by their wisdom and by their stories.”

Dr Bugg said she had spent some time with a woman, aged in her early 20s, who was in maximum security prison for life and had taken four Inside-Out courses.

“I had conversations with her during that week about political philosophy and human rights that were as challenging as any I might have had with my postgraduate students,” Dr Bugg said.

Other speakers will include Jo McAlpin, Performance and Compliance Manager in Corrective Services NSW, whose role is responsible for the statewide management of basic adult education and also has experience in prison teaching, Juanita Sherwood, Professor of Indigenous Education at UTS, and Dr Nicky McWilliam from the Faculty of Law at UTS.

The University Beyond Walls: Transformative Prison Education from theInside Out discussion will be held tonight from 6pm at the Law Faculty Common Room, Level 4, Sydney Law School Building, Building F10, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown

The event is free. To book a place click here or email

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