Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion Through Students’ Transformative Experiences in Prison
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The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program has been delivered at three prisons in Victoria, Australia. The programme includes two diverse student cohorts: incarcerated individuals and RMIT’s criminology and justice students, who study a subject together. The research evaluation of the programme included mixed methods of pre- and post-test quantitative surveys and qualitative focus group interviews with both incarcerated individuals and university students at prisons. The evaluation of the programme demonstrated that studying together empowers incarcerated people as it shows them that their criminal behaviour need not define them. Their transformative learning in the programme helps them imagine a better future for themselves and one which encompasses education and/or employment opportunities, which they thought were unachievable/inaccessible. University students, on the other hand, reconsider what they know about crime and justice and learn about the lived experience of incarcerated individuals before commencing criminal justice careers. University students are also provided with a transformative experience which guides their future decision-making in the criminal justice field. The value of the programme is threefold. First, to RMIT University, demonstrated by a Teaching Excellence Award—Educational Partnerships and Collaborations with Other Organisations and Deputy Vice Chancellor Education’s Award for Good Teaching in 2017. Secondly, incarcerated individuals and university students had a transformative experience which changed perceptions of themselves and each other. Lastly, the community has benefitted as incarcerated individuals may have greater re-integrative prospects.
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