Criminal Justice students at Northern Michigan University recently became the first in the Upper Peninsula to complete the Inside Out program, which is a nationwide initiative that brings University students together with incarcerated individuals to discuss various topics.

The “outside” students from NMU were paired with “inside” students at the Marquette Branch Prison to learn course materials together. Creating a dialog about crime, punishment, and communities was the focus of the intensive work students took on.

“This offered students the opportunity to learn in a seminar cooperative environment, and then learn alongside a population that normally does not get the opportunity to attend college,” said Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Michael Harrington.

For their final projects, students created proposals to address some of the problems in the criminal justice system. The projects helped students on both sides of the system experience new points of view.

“The thing that we all took away was a different perspective,” said Criminal Justice Major Gabrielle Loew. “I came from a very small town. I had never even met a felon, so it was interesting hearing the step-by-step process that they went through throughout the criminal justice system, and now the prison system, that I never would have been able to get from a regular learning environment here on campus.”

“The biggest thing I think that we gave a lot of these guys was the understanding that they could, once they got out, return to college,” Ben Drymon, a Criminal Justice and Accounting Major, added, “that they have the ability to get an education, and we found that education actually reduces recidivism.”

This year’s course was quite successful, and faculty hope that it will continue in semesters to come.