15 Students Embark on GMercyU's Newly-Launched Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program

September 30, 2019
GMercyU's Inside Out Prison Exchange
15 GMercyU “outside” students gather outside the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia on the evening of their first combined class with the “inside” students. 

This fall, Gwynedd Mercy University launched a new opportunity for students called the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program®.

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is an international program founded and housed at Temple University, bringing incarcerated and non-incarcerated students together as peers. The program offers GMercyU “outside” students the unique experience to meet “inside” students of a correctional facility and exchange thoughts and perspectives about crime, justice, the criminal justice system, corrections, and imprisonment. 

Started in 1997, The Inside-Out Prison Exchange® is an educational program created to inspire social change through dialogue and collaboration.

On September 10, a total of 15 GMercyU “outside” students – the program’s inaugural class – attended the first of 13 meetings at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia. Each weekly meeting is roughly two and a half hours long and consists of guided dialogue on specific topics.

“Realizing there’s another group of people just like you who were incarcerated because of different life circumstances is a truly transformative experience for students and instructors alike," said GMercyU Associate Professor and Criminal Justice Program Coordinator, Patrick McGrain, PhD. "You can’t get this kind of experience in the classroom or even through an internship.” 

To be selected for the program at the Federal Detention Center, the “inside” students must be serving time for the commission a nonviolent offense and complete an interview process with the Reentry Affairs Coordinator at the Federal Detention Center. The “outside” students must have Junior standing at the Gwynedd Mercy University and be interviewed and approved by Dr. McGrain, who teaches the program at GMercyU.

In order to bring the Inside-Out Prison Exchange® program to GMercyU, Dr. McGrain completed a week-long training course at FCI-Hazelton, a maximum-security prison in West Virginia and one of several Inside-Out training sites throughout the country. 

The GMercyU Inside-Out meetings at the Federal Detention Center are complemented by coursework that includes several required texts, a cost that none of the inside students are able to cover. However, Dr. McGrain worked with book publishers and bookstores to receive the books as donations or at discounted prices. The New Press donated one of the texts for the course; Dr. Lisa McGarry, the Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, generously covered the cost of two other texts; and Dr. McGrain covered the cost of the remaining books. At the end of the semester, the books will be kept in the prison library for continued learning and future Inside-Out programming. 

Learn more about GMercyU’s Criminal Justice Program.

Learn more about the international Inside-Out Prison Exchange program.