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Inmates, Classmates

Expanding perspective through an innovative criminal justice course

September 2016
UW students learn alongside inmates at Monroe Correctional Complex in mixed enrollment course

Each week, about a dozen A&S students head to prison. They trek up to the Monroe Correctional Complex for a 400-level course about criminal justice, with prison inmates as their classmates. Professor Steve Herbert, director of the Law, Societies, and Justice (LSJ) program, teaches the mixed-enrollment class, which is made possible through LSJ’s Timothy Richard Wettack Fund.

“Working together helps humanize people who may well have done a horrible thing but are still struggling to not let that one act define who they are,” says Herbert. “The inmates are eager and willing to do the significant amount of work that this class demands.”

For the UW students, the course provides a rare opportunity to learn how criminal justice issues play out in real life. “The experience allowed us to break down preconceived notions of prisons and prison inmates and get to know them as intelligent peers,” says one participant. Adds a pre-law classmate, “It’s really beneficial to learn about these issues from a perspective that’s different from what we’re usually exposed to. This is not something you can get anywhere else.”

“The experience allowed us to break down preconceived notions of prisons and prison inmates…”