At the core of our mission is the conviction that the benefits of providing the most educationally underserved members of our community with an opportunity to explore and discuss the greatest works and most poignant ideas found within the world literary canon extend not only to our students but also to corrections and law enforcement officers at these facilities and to the wider community. We have taught 39 classes and served over 1000 students to date.
Inside Literature affects positive change by addressing a threat in our community—crime—with a unique approach. Research shows that education reduces recidivism, and so it follows that providing opportunities to those incarcerated pre-trial could lead to a reduction in pre-trial post-disposition recidivism. This means that more community members would reintegrate positively, reducing crime and building bridges within our community. Maintaining a sense of the importance of being part of a community while incarcerated is essential to reentry, so a focus on the importance of community in our approach is essential.
Teaching with Inside Literature offers our instructors valuable pedagogical training, as well as first-hand knowledge of the importance of education in a social justice setting thereby expanding the horizons these professional educators might pursue and the issues they will tackle over the course of their careers. It helps to develop their own ties to their community as well as promoting the importance of using their education and knowledge to engage in their community. Inside Literature stresses educators’ responsibility to the community by putting the ‘human’ back in humanities and making the study of literature available to wider audiences.
Educational programming like Inside Literature has the capacity to decrease violent incidents inside the facility by creating an incentive to retain program attendance privileges by maintaining good behavior; it also develops a new form of community among the students who participate. These bonds are unique and can have a far-reaching impact on those around them. Interest in signing up for a program that is well thought of by their peers can also motivate those who have yet to participate to maintain good behavior and explore more of their options while incarcerated. Having participants work collectively in a classroom setting to unlock texts that deal with the human condition fosters a sense of shared goals within the correctional facility.
Inside Literature enhances students’ ties to the community while they are incarcerated and provides educational opportunities to develop reading, writing, & critical thinking skills. The collective study of literature helps to reduce feelings of isolation and increase a sense of community among inmates. As one student put it, these courses give them “something else to talk about” as well as a new way to relate to each other via the shared experience of reading. The learning community developed in the classroom extends beyond it, as students help each other with their work and engage with the material together outside of class. The ties to the wider community are enhanced by interacting with community members who are committed to their learning goals.