Class at Maine Correctional Center Brings Inmates and Students Together
Bowdoin College is offering a unique opportunity for 12 students and 12 inmates at the Maine Correctional Center (MCC)--a chance to be classmates in a Citizenship and Religion in America course held at the minimum-security prison, according to the school's student-run newspaper. The Bowdoin Orient. The class, taught by Professor Elizabeth Pritchard, is the first of its kind offered by Bowdoin, and was initially proposed by students Eliza Novick-Smith and Chelsea Shaffer. Inspired by the Bard Prison initiative that offered college degrees to inmates in New York, Novick-Smith and Shaffer saw Bowdoin as a candidate for a similar program.
The model for the course was a prison exchange program at Temple University. Funded by the college. Pritchard was able to travel to Temple to complete training to teach the class, and the Inside-Out program was created. Pritchard and the students reported initial awkwardness between the groups of students, but said that they quickly became comfortable with one another. "After the first week, it was pretty relaxed," said junior David Steury, citing the classroom environment as "collegial."
Pritchard and students found that this environment was conducive to discussion and encouraged students to share their personal opinions and experiences. "There's generally a correctional officer in the room, and on a certain level, I think we wish there weren't," Steury said. "I think the inmates would speak more freely."
An inmate student expressed his appreciation of the class in a letter to Novick-Smith. "I hope that whoever reads this will understand the importance of the opportunity this program provides," the student wrote. He also added that the course has given him "the skills that [he was] going to need in overcoming the hurdles caused by incarceration and felon status."
After the early success of the class, Pritchard said that she was "committed to doing this again," possibly at the Women's Center of the MCC, although the future of the Inside-Out program at Bow-doin is still unclear.
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