Inside-Out: US prison education program to head Down Under

4 November 2013

Lori Pompa
"We are very excited to see Inside-Out being embraced by instructors in Australia", says Lori Pompa, Founder and Director of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program in the United States.

The founder and director of America's ground-breaking Inside-Out program, in which prison inmates and university students come together as peers in a classroom setting, will weigh up the benefits of bringing this innovative model to Australia in a special event at the University of Sydney this evening.

The University's Sydney Institute of Criminology and Sydney Social Justice Network will host this panel discussion, which includes Lori Pompa, the Founder and Director of the Inside-Out Centre at Temple University in the USA, the international headquarters of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program.

Inside-Out has been running for 15 years, and has held approximately 500 classes involving more than 15,000 students both within and outside of the correctional system.

There is a goal in place of starting an Inside-Out project titled 'University Beyond Walls' in Australia in late 2014. 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," says Lori Pompa, "and hope that we can get the program going strongly over the next couple of years."

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

"I think, over the years, our history has helped [alleviate these concerns], including the fact that we have had no serious security issues," says Inside Out's Lori Pompa.

"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 and the Department of Sociology and Social Policy 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 says. "I was astounded by their wisdom and by their stories."

She points to the story of one women she met, 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," says Dr Bugg.

Other speakers at Monday's event 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.

Event details:

What: The University Beyond Walls: Transformative Prison Education from the Inside Out

When: Monday 4 November 6:00pm-8:00pm

Where: Law Faculty Common Room, Level 4, Sydney Law School Building, Building F10, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown

Cost: Free with registration requested

Bookings: book online now or email

Media enquiries: Kate Mayor, 9351 2208, 0434 561 056,

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