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Inside-Out Prison Exchange: unique course involving students and prisoners

Inside-Out Prison Exchange is a course in which students and prisoners work together on research questions in the area of crime, law enforcement and major social issues. The course takes place at a unique location: within the walls of a prison.

On the Honours College Law course ‘Inside-Out Prison Exchange’, students work on developing their knowledge, professional and research skills in an interdisciplinary setting. This provides them with insights into the world as it is experienced by offenders; prisoners make a valuable contribution to the course in which they often constitute the subject matter. The thinking behind the course is that students and prisoners will benefit from each other’s knowledge. 

The course started in January 2020 with a group of students in Heerhugowaard Penal Institution. The application procedure for the second group starts in February 2021. In the December issue of the  Bonjo Krant, a two-monthly newspaper available at all penal institutions in the Netherlands, lecturers Joni Reef and Jennifer Doekhie look back on the first group of their course. This was something they had wished for and planned for a long time. 'We first learnt about education projects at prisons in the United States, and with determination and hard work the course began to take shape. In 2020 we could finally start our own Inside Out group. This would not have been possible without Leiden University, the Dutch Custodial Institutions Agency, many people at Heerhugowaard PI, and last but not least our highly motivated students.'

Students and prisoners first prepared a poster together which can be hung up at universities to teach students about issues involving penal institutions. It can also be hung up in penal institutions to provide information to prisoners. All groups chose excellent issues and worked together in their own way to gather information. Topics included ‘Fathers in jail’, ‘A guide to education’, ‘Five ways to prevent negative effects of detention’, and ‘Navigating by phases’. The actual posters were made during the final session.

Infographic designed by Joni Reef

The course provides students with a wealth of knowledge and experience the lecturers say. 'One thing is certain: if you make the effort to consider the other person’s position, to reconsider your own preconceptions, and to take the time to consider what motivates others, you will have a better understanding of the world. This will help our students to become better judges, policy makers and lawyers. And prisoners can learn more about their strengths and how to activate them more efficiently. This is our aim and what we hope to achieve.'

To learn more about this course and to apply, see the information in the e-prospectus.

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