Sem 300 level class to be held in local prison

By Jillian Smith
December 1, 2006

Ever wonder what it’s like to take a class in a prison with inmates? With the new Seminar 300 level class, crime and justice, taught by Dr. Jeff Gingerich, associate professor of sociology, and Ms. Laura Gorgol, campus minister, one can go beyond the barbed-wire and experience a different kind of learning experience at Montgomery Country Correctional Facility, an all male prison right outside of Norristown.

Starting next semester, Gingerich and Gorgol will be taking 15 students from Cabrini to the prison once a week on Monday afternoons to meet with 15 students from the correction facility.

A national model, the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, is the reason behind this class. Started by Lori Pompa at Temple University in 1997, she took 15 inside students, incarcerated men and women, and 15 outside students, students from a local university, and brought them together to teach them one class.

Gingerich and Gorgol went through national training. They have learned the ways in which Pompa has made the class and success and are both certified for this type of work.

Gingerich explained this class as “a new way of doing education” and he hopes to make it “one that is much more exciting for both the inside and the outside as well.”

The class is just a regular class with the topic of criminal justice. There will be readings, papers, projects, tests, and group discussions, just like any other class, except for the fact that the class will be held in a prison instead of classroom.

“I really think the real learning will come through talking [with the prisoners],” Gingerich said.

Each student was interviewed before being selected to partake in the learning experience.

The Cabrini students will have a mixture of females and males, where the prison will only have males, however, with a mixture of ages. “Everybody in the class will be a student, whether they live at Cabrini or whether they live at the prison,” Gingerich said.

“The Cabrini College students are not studying, they’re not working, they’re not serving the incarcerated people, nor are the incarcerated people being studied. They’re taking the same class,” Gorgol said.

Both professors feel that this class is a good way of taking community service and really getting involved. According to Gingerich, “It’s a new way of looking at service learning and community engagement in a way that kind of puts us all a little bit more of an equal level,” said Gingerich.

Gorgol also agrees. “I think it really fits in with our mission at Cabrini with our core values of community and respect. I’m really excited to apart of this project!”

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Jillian Smith

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