Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program

Admission to the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program has been postponed until further notice.

The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Wayne State University (WSU) and the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) are pleased to offer students the opportunity to enroll in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program.

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is unlike any other class offered at WSU. The semester-long course meets once per week inside a local prison, formerly the Detroit Reentry Center (DRC). The class combines WSU students (outside students) with an equal number of incarcerated men (inside students) at the DRC in Detroit, MI. Both WSU and incarcerated students have the same syllabus and academic requirements and students learn about crime and justice together through collaboration and dialogue.

Inside-Out was founded by Lori Pompa at Temple University with the first class taking place in the Philadelphia Prison System in 1997. The program has since grown to include 565 trained instructors from 40 states and six countries reaching over 20,000 students. The fall 2017 Inside-Out class in the criminal justice department here at Wayne State marks the first official course being offered at the university with recognition by the Office of the Provost.

For more information

For questions about Inside-Out at WSU, please contact

Course description

CRJ 5995 Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program (three credits)

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is a semester-long overview of current social justice topics taught inside the DRC. The curriculum will focus in particular on mass incarceration and will include the exploration of why people commit crime, populations most impacted by issues of mass incarceration, racism and classism as it relates to mass incarceration, various forms of punishment and rehabilitation, retributive justice versus restorative justice and reform efforts to decrease mass incarceration.

Inside and outside students meet separately on the first and last weeks of class in order to properly orient and debrief the experience. During the semester, inside and outside students will discuss issues, complete reading/writing assignments and work together to complete a group project.


  • What is Inside-Out?

    The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program is an international program that creates a dynamic partnership between institutions of higher learning and correctional systems. This course focuses on conversations that transform our approaches to the understanding of crime, justice, freedom, inequality, and other issues of social justice. 

    For more information on the International Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, visit

    What Inside-Out is NOT:

    • It is NOT an opportunity to do human subject research on the men who are on the inside. Conducting any kind of research in this sort of setting is fundamentally disrespectful and dehumanizing, and antithetical to the goals and purpose of the Inside-Out program
    • It is NOT an opportunity for charity, or to "help" incarcerated men in the usual sense of volunteerism or charity
    • It is NOT a scared straight program. It is not intended to give the outside students an experience based on fear in order to cause them to rethink their life choices. Though it is sometimes the case that individual students will express either an appreciation for how their lives have gone or a clarity that they don't want to "end up in prison," that it not the goal of the program
    • It is NOT a whistle-blowing program that has its aim to draw public attention to problems inside the prison. First, the particular prison sponsoring the program is not the focus of the class and its discussion. Larger systemic issues which include the criminal justice system, as well as the larger political, economic and social questions are at the heart of what Inside-Out attempts to unearth in its exploration
    • Finally, and this is always the most difficult issue: even though bonds between and amongst students inevitably form throughout the semester, Inside-Out is NOT a vehicle for developing relationships that will exist outside the parameters of the program
  • Do I receive credit for this course?

    CRJ 5995 provides you with three credits of coursework. 

  • How are 'inside' students selected?

    The 'inside' students at the Detroit Reentry Center (DRC) will be selected in a process similar to 'outside' students from WSU. 'Inside' students will fill out an application that will be reviewed by the instructor who will then interview the selected pool of applicants. Fifteen 'inside' students will be invited to participate in the course. The intention of the interviews is to choose a mix of students (race, socioeconomic status, opinions, education, etc.) as a means to ensure class discussion is enriched by varying viewpoints. 

  • How do I register for this course?

    Interested students must first fill out and submit the application (when available) prior to the application due date. The instructor will then conduct in-person interviews with selected applicants. Fifteen students will be invited to participate in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Selected students will then be allowed to register for the course in the same way that they register for other courses at WSU.

  • How do students get to the prison?

    Students must transport themselves to the facility. No university transportation will be provided.  

  • Is there an attendance policy for the course?
    • Students are required to attend every class and to participate in classroom discussion
    • It is imperative that students show up 30 minutes prior to the start of class on the days that the class will be facilitated at the prison in order to ensure time to go through security clearance without interfering with the class run time of 6 – 8:30 p.m. Class will begin promptly
    • Attendance points are a part of the overall grading for the course, and it will clearly be harmful to the student's overall success in the class if there are excessive absences
    • For every two classes that a student misses, then their overall grade in the course will be reduced by one letter grade. The only exception will be due to extenuating circumstances which must be addressed with the class instructor who will be responsible for providing final approval
  • I was arrested for something in the past, does that exclude me from being in this course?

    No. It is important, however, to disclose any past arrests on the application form so that Michigan Department of Corrections and WSU can make an informed decision when selecting participants. All students accepted into the course will be required to undergo a background check.

  • Is there anything dangerous about going inside of the prison?

    Above all else, safety is the number one concern. The Inside-Out program was designed and created to keep students as safe as possible. Both 'inside' and 'outside' students will undergo an interview process and orientation to ensure integrity and safety in the course. While it is important to always remain cognizant of the prison setting, students are carefully monitored at all times by the instructor(s), security cameras, and prison security staff.

  • What fees are associated with this course?

    There are no textbooks for the course however, students will be responsible for the cost of printing reading materials which will be posted on Canvas.

  • What is the time commitment for this course?

    Inside-Out (CRJ 5995) will meet weekly at the Detroit Reentry Center in Detroit, MI. The drive to the facility is approximately 10-15 minutes away from Wayne State. In addition to meeting for the course, students will be required to write a series of reflective papers, complete a group project and a final paper assignment. The course will typically meet from 6 – 8:30 p.m. Students should be available between 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to allow for transportation to the facility and to allot for the classroom time in the prison.

  • What is the dress code for going into the prison?
    • No clothing that resembles the uniforms worn by either staff or those who are imprisoned in the institution. The incarcerated men at the DRC wear orange and blue uniforms
    • No inappropriate skin may be shown (i.e., tummies, legs above the knee, cleavage, and upper arms and shoulders)
    • Nothing excessively tight or low cut
    • No watches
    • No hooded sweatshirts, white tee-shirts, bandanas, colored shoelaces, caps (some of these items can be associated with gang activity)
    • No coats or other outerwear—once you enter the DRC, you will not be outside contending with various weather patterns that would prompt the need for a coat
    • No open-toed shoes or sandals
    • For more detailed information on the dress code requirements, please refer to Michigan Department of Corrections Visiting Standards (PDF)  (refer to letter K of the MDOC Visiting Standards)
  • Where is the prison located?

    The facility is located in Detroit, MI ten minutes away from campus. The physical address of the prison complex is 17600 Ryan Road, Detroit, MI. You can learn more about the DRC at,4551,7-119--5350--,00.html.

  • Will there be any contact between the incarcerated and WSU students outside the classroom?

    No. Inside-Out is premised on semi-anonymity (first names only). Each student enrolled in the course will be required to sign a document agreeing that he/she will not attempt to learn more and/or contact 'inside' students in the course. Any student who attempts to make contact or learn another student's personal information will be removed from the class.