University of Oregon


Background on Inside-Out at the UO

The UO’s Inside-Out program takes students, teachers, and opportunity to the Oregon penitentiary.

Read the resulting magazine, Turned Inside-Out.

The setting, the students (insiders and outsiders), and the teachers combine to create unique opportunities for everyone involved. Adding further to the program’s effectiveness is the challenging level of the course work. Here, for example, is a brief description UO professor Steve Shankman wrote about the first three Inside-Out courses he taught.

The first year (2007), we read two novels by Dostoevsky, The House of the Dead, based on the author’s formative experience as a prisoner in Siberia for four years, and Crime and Punishment. The second year (2008), we read The Brothers Karamazov and Emmanuel Levinas’s book Ethics and Infinity. Last spring (2009), we read Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot, whose protagonist, Prince Myshkin, was modeled on Cervantes’ hero. We also read a selection of transcriptions of the last set of lectures that Levinas delivered at the Sorbonne in 1975–76; the subject of these lectures is “God and Onto-theo-logy.”

Clark Honors College students call their Inside-Out courses life changing, transformational, and the best learning environment they have ever experienced.

Popularity of the program—and the limited number of spots available—has driven an increase in the number of courses offered. Since the first UO Inside-Out offering in 2007, enrollment applications have increased by more than 100 percent. More than seventy UO students and seventy inside students have participated—with the four classes that are scheduled in winter and spring 2011, those numbers will nearly double.

Other UO instructors are bringing their areas of specialization to the Inside-Out program. Last year, a course titled Ethics and Aesthetics in Film got rave reviews. A similar course will be offered in winter 2011, as well as a sociology course, a conflict resolution course, and Steve Shankman’s literature section.

• • •

Corrections Education: Costs and Benefits

For inmates in Oregon’s correctional facilities, basic adult education (courses leading to high-school equivalency and English proficiency) is funded by the state. For that investment, the state is estimated to save $2.25 in lowered recidivism costs for every dollar spent.

Benefits of “inside” college courses are more difficult to quantify: In the early nineties, the federal government eliminated PELL grants for inmates, ending or crippling many types of corrections education programs. As a result, funding for college degree-granting programs in prisons comes from a patchwork of grants and private donations. One such program in New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility boasts a zero recidivism rate for graduates who have been released; the national rate for all released offenders is around 60 percent. The University of Oregon is working with corrections education officials to build a degree-granting program for the Oregon Department of Corrections.

In Oregon, inmates must reach and maintain behavior (and educational program) standards. Administrators see markedly improved behavior and self-esteem in college course participants, which leads to fewer fights and less gang activity, lower security costs, and stronger family relationships. The average college-level GPA of Oregon’s incarcerated students is 3.56. Costs for the UO course are subsidized for inside students, who pay about $50 each for tuition. On average, an Oregon inmate earns approximately $30 per month.

Oregon prisons by the numbers:
Cost per inmate, per day: $84.46
Oregon recidivism rate: 27.8 percent*
Oregon inmates

July 2010: 13,899
July 2014: 15,065 [projected]
July 2018: 15,874 [projected]


* Percentage of parole and post prison supervision offenders convicted of a new felony within three years of release, excluding those released from prison following a revocation of conviction.

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Click here to open Oregon Quarterly's digital edition
POEMS | Read two of Susan Rich’s poems inspired by the work of Oregon photographer Myra Albert Wiggins
PRISON PROSE | The UO’s Inside-Out program takes students, teachers, and opportunity to 
the Oregon state penitentiary.
LETTERS | Full-length versions of the letters to the editor from the print version of OQ.

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