Innovative program turns prisoners into classroom peers

Temple University Professor Lori Pompa first brought classes into Philadelphia’s prisons in the early 1990s, seeking to deepen her students’ understanding of the criminal justice system. Pompa saw quickly that learning and teaching work both ways in prison – and that everyone benefits when inmates become classmates. And so, the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program was born.

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Exercise in student activism opens doors to academic achievement

The Bard Prison Initiative started small – just a handful students at a small New York college who fought back against cuts in federal funding for prisoners taking college courses. Today, BPI is a widely recognized success. The program is offered in six medium- and maximum-security institutions across New York state, enrolling more than 300 students in a high-quality liberal arts program and helping hundreds of ex-offenders adjust to life on the outside.

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Student-centered approach works inside the walls, too

Educators have long advocated individualized learning programs – those designed to capitalize on students’ specific interests and adapt to their learning styles. College Unbound’s Prison Bridge Program is rooted in that idea, but it takes it a step further. It’s the “bridge” portions of the program – the features designed to smooth students’ transition from prison to the outside world – that set it apart. And the architect of that “bridge” is James Monteiro, an ex-offender who had to make that tough transition.

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

America has always been billed as the land of opportunity, the setting for second chances. Even centuries before the founding of the Republic, people were drawn to the New World because it was just that: new. This has always been the place to start fresh … to break the mold … to build a different, better life.

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Steve Giegerich

The stories in this issue of Focus were reported and written by Steve Giegerich. Giegerich, a former education writer for the Associated Press and a onetime journalism instructor at Columbia University, is a staff writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Editing | David S. Powell
Editorial assistance | Ruth Holladay
Photography | Shawn Spence Photography
Design & development | IronGate Creative
Multimedia production | Matthew Jenkins

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