- THURSDAY POST - U of O Alumni Projects, Spring Term 2012

Hi Oregon campuses! Here's what we at U of O are up to next term. Let us know what Inside-Out alumni on your campus are planning for next term! 1. Serbu Book Club

Serbu is Lane County’s juvenile detention facility for youth ages 12-17 years old who have been referred by local law enforcement because of criminal behavior. The book club is held in the Phoenix unit of Serbu—a co-ed drug and alcohol treatment program of up to 16 youth. The Inside-Out class formula is the model for Book Club; open and enthusiastic college students join up with incarcerated, in-treatment youth to enjoy and learn with each other. The fundamental goal of Book Club is to set a positive example for youth and to create a fun and stimulating environment—a distinctly different feel from that of the school classroom as these youth know it.

Our club meetings next term will be full of activities and discussion that center around our past experiences as members of our imperfect community (Lane County). Having come to terms with the constricting forces that complicate the ability of our community members to be successful, we will turn to improving them, and our work will culminate in making recommendations for community improvement (this term the current Mayor of Eugene and the former Mayor of Springfield are joining us to hear our ideas).

2. Re-entry Support Group via Oregon Youth Authority

Oregon Youth Authority has partnered with other organizations--The Trauma Healing Project, namely--and Inside-Out to offer a re-entry group for men and women 16-22 who have recently left OYA custody and returned to the community. In a format heavily influenced by Inside-Out pedagogy, a small group of people recently released will meet weekly during Spring Term 2012 with an equal number of U of O Inside-Out alumni to learn from and enjoy one another.

3. Writing Group at Serbu Justice Center

While still in the works, this project aims to provide a creative outlet (through writing) for youth currently existing in live-in treatment at the Serbu Justice Center.

Other projects proposed for the future (next term, potentially) are: - Collecting school supplies for kids whose parents are incarcerated - Book drive (Serbu/Sponsors, Inc./Prisons) - A series of arts workshops (crafts/film/writing/etc.)

Finally, we want to encourage people by saying that it's generally easier than you'd expect to get a program started at a public organization like the Serbu Justice Center. Below is the proposal that Katie presented to Serbu in Spring 2010--the document that got Book Club started at Serbu. Of course, Book Club has taken a largely different form, but this will still give you a sense of how to present a fairly fluid program proposal to a group like Serbu:

Inside-Out Book Club at Serbu

Draft Vision

The UO alumni group of the Inside-Out Program are proposing a book club project with Serbu Youth Campus, the juvenile facility in Eugene.  Our vision of the program involves Inside-Out rules and ideology applied to an ongoing project that would involve youth offenders and UO students and graduates in weekly conversations about literature.  Our hope is that this will not only offer a constructive and innovative program for Serbu youth, but will also allow previous Inside-Out participants to continue to engage what they learned about dialogue, encounters with individuals of different backgrounds, and the setting of correctional institutions.

We envision the program to consist of quarter-long (ten-week) studies of several novels with a unifying theme.  We will begin with a six-week pilot program during the summer.  While there will be a facilitator designated to maintain focus and to mediate conflict, there will not be a single leader of the class, but rather group ownership of the material and the conduct of the course.  It will be dialogue-based and conducted in a circle format, with one-on-one and small group discussions along with large group dialogue.  Our hope is to include equal numbers of Outside and Inside participants, so that all participants can feel on an equal setting with the others.  Ideally, this would be a group of approximately ten Inside students and ten Outside students. 

Inside-Out Background

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program takes college students into correctional institutions for integrated college courses with incarcerated individuals.  The ideology of Inside-Out is one of engaged pedagogy and of collaboration and equality between the Inside and Outside students.  Therefore, there is no dynamic of “helping,” “researching,” or “fixing” of one group by the other.  The idea is that all individuals benefit from the practice of honest and open dialogue, and the act of engaging complex social issues in the context of a prison setting. This is not a tutoring or mentorship model, but rather an attempt to integrate two groups of learners in a collaborative setting.

Inside-Out Alumni

The UO Inside-Out alumni have all participated in an Inside-Out class, either at Oregon State Penitentiary or at Oregon State Correctional Institution.  As of June 14th, there will be approximately fifty graduates of a literature and ethics class with Professor Steven Shankman, and fifteen of a film class with Professor Bill Cadbury.  All participants, therefore, have experience with being inside a correctional facility, obeying institution and program rules, and navigating the complex dynamics of that context.

Our group includes students of a wide variety of majors, ranging from English to biology, including business and family and human services.  The usual age range of Inside-Out alumni is 20-23.  Some have recently attained a Bachelor's Degree, while others are in their junior or senior years at the University of Oregon.  While this group is not homogeneous in its makeup, it is a group that was originally selected for Inside-Out classes because of ability to dialogue, maturity, open-mindedness, and a willingness to transcend stereotypes to meet new people.  These attributes have been augmented by our previous participation in Inside-Out.

Book Club Curricula

We will be reading comic books and graphic novels, which we imagine will be more approachable for some of the youth and will somewhat level the playing field between the college students and Serbu group.  The focus will be on discussing the art itself as well as the social commentary in the books and the implications of superheroes in American culture. 

In addition to discussing the literature, we would also participate in some established Inside-Out activities, such as ice breakers, group consensus building, establishing our own guidelines for discussion, and others.

Prior to the first full class meeting, we would hold separate meetings for Inside and Outside group to make sure that all those involved understand the rules and are able to ask any questions in a smaller setting.

To facilitate organization and communication, we will designate one “point person” to ensure classroom order and to communicate with Serbu staff and all participants.  For the first session of classes, this person will be Katie Dwyer, who is trained as an Inside-Out Instructor and is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the University of Oregon, as well as being a chair of Inside-Out in Oregon. 


We plan to work with Serbu staff to make this project approachable from a research perspective.  We, as participants, will not be conducting human subjects research of any kind, with any of the participating students.  However, we want to enable Serbu personnel to accurately measure the impact this program will have on participants.  We are happy to help design a program that will be easily approachable in this way.

Additional thoughts

The first book club could begin over the summer, and could include an orientation/curricular development period with the UO participants and Serbu staff.  We are willing to go through any training necessary so that all participants are comfortable and fully prepared for this commitment.  Therefore, it might be expedient to offer a shortened “pilot” program this summer of six to eight weeks to work through training and planning needs. 

Eventually, we would like the Serbu youth to take leadership and partial ownership for this project.  We imagine that certain youth might be interested in taking multiple classes, and perhaps in helping to create curriculum or leading the class.  While this might not be a short-term possibility, we would like it to be a long-term goal.

Additional Information

More information about the Inside-Out Program can be found at www.insideoutcenter.org  Additionally, a student documentary about our Inside-Out class in the spring of 2009 can be found at http://www.vimeo.com/5193052 The documentary is only ten minutes long, and includes some good background of the program.

Get it going, everyone! And comment here or email us at insideout@uoregon.edu with questions/suggestions/to brainstorm.

- Alex

U of O