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At Oregon State Penitentiary, OSU students and inmates compare lives as they attend class together March 27, 2007

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

They sit in a circle in a lemon-colored room framed with thick steel bars that stripe the view of the sky. The fresh-faced students in Oregon State University sweat shirts fill folding metal chairs between men wearing jeans and shirts stamped INMATE in bright orange letters.

“There’s nothing special about the fact that I didn’t end up a criminal,” Sarah says.

Several of the men in prison blues lean forward, shaking their heads in disagreement.

“No,” Bob says forcefully. “There is something special about not being in here. Some people are weak; some people are strong.” Sarah, he says, showed her strength by going to college.

Fellow inmates nod. The college students seem unsure. Over the past nine weeks, they’ve felt this way a lot — filled with new doubts about things they once thought true.

Past the looming guard tower and between the razor wire-topped fences of the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, the unusual course — among the first such classes offered on the West Coast — is coming to an end. Students expected to learn about the sociology of crime. But the lesson that sticks with them most was utterly unexpected: It is often just one choice, one decision, that separates the students who are free to leave the penitentiary at the end of the night and those who stay to be locked in cages.

That, says OSU professor Michelle Inderbitzin, is the amazing thing about the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. It’s transformative for everyone involved.

Read the entire story here: http://www.oregonlive.com/oregonian/stories/index.ssf?/base/news/117388230734540.xml&coll=7&thispage=1



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