A new class beginning during the fall 2016 semester will allow students to go to a prison and talk to inmates, according to Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Stephen McGuinn.
This course was introduced on Feb. 23 at an Exponential Opportunity Fair Festival.
The class will meet once a week inside a designated prison that McGuinn did not want to disclose. McGuinn will act as a moderator between the “outside” students, or the Quinnipiac students, and the “inside” students, the prisoners participating in the program.
McGuinn said this class is not an opportunity for people to simply hear stories from prisoners or get Quinnipiac students ‘scared straight’, but rather to discuss the flaws within the criminal justice system, such as crime, freedom, inequality, and other social issues.
“Punishment in this country is very private, so people don’t really understand what it is,” McGuinn said. “If we choose to punish, we should know what it is. We should know exactly what it looks like, what it’s doing and the beginning of that is to visit, see, and live a couple hours in the space that is prison.”
Senior student Taylor Porter thinks this new course is a good start for college students to understand the effects of the justice system through a first-hand perspective.
“A lot of people are finding fault recently in our justice system, so any attempts to study it [is good] so college students can learn to do it better and the next generation could benefit” she said.
There are currently no prerequisites to join the course; therefore any undergraduate student can apply.
McGuinn said students filled out an extensive application through MyQ to be in the course. He is currently selecting students to be in the class.
“There’s an application process, it’s pretty rigorous,” McGuinn said. “We do an application and then there’s an interview and we carefully select people that understand what we’re trying to do and have an interest in this in general.”
Freshman student Jackie Schurick finds herself interested in this class and believes many others will feel the same way.
“Anything outside the classroom that gives you hands-on stuff I think is more beneficial,” she said. “Seeing it face-to-face with someone who went through it.”
The program takes the security of students very seriously and are highly careful in selecting which prisoners are allowed to communicate with the students, McGuinn said.
McGuinn is confident that this class will provide a great opportunity to those who are passionate about learning in depth about what happens behind the walls of prison.
“Many universities have adopted similar like classes, the idea being to begin to bring together what is a very diverse population and run a single class,” he said. “So not just exposing people to the actual physical place, but people that are disproportionately impacted by incarceration.”
UPDATE: This article was corrected on April 25 to provide context for a quote by Stephen McGuinn.