Skip navigation

Journal Legal Educ Shay Inside Out as Law School Pedagogy Nov 2012

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.
207

Inside-Out as Law School Pedagogy
Giovanna Shay
In the fall of 2010, and again in spring 2012, I taught a course entitled
Gender & Criminal Law inside the Western Massachusetts Correctional
Alcohol Center in Springfield. Participants in the course included roughly
equal numbers of law students from my home academic institution, Western
New England University School of Law (WNE), and residents of the facility.
For fourteen weeks, we met on Friday mornings at the institution to discuss
issues including domestic violence law reform, the role of family ties in
sentencing, and gender issues in prisoner reentry.
I taught my course in a modified form of the Inside-Out format. Inside-Out
is a national training program founded by Lori Pompa and based at Temple
University. It offers training programs several times each year. The program
has trained more than 300 instructors to date who have offered 300 Inside-Out
courses around the U.S. and in Canada.1 Most of these instructors are college
professors who typically teach undergraduates. I participated in training in
summer 2009, becoming the first law school professor to join the Inside-Out
network.2
This Essay reflects on my Inside-Out experience. It makes the case for
Inside-Out as a particularly useful form of experiential learning for law
students. It also describes some techniques that I learned through teaching an
Inside-Out course that can be implemented in a more traditional law school
setting.
Others contributing to this symposium have constructed different vehicles
designed to promote exchange between law students and incarcerated people.
We have assembled this collection because we believe that the legal academy
has a role to play in examining the nation’s over-reliance on incarceration.
Giovanna Shay is a Professor of Law, Western New England University School of Law. Thanks to
everyone at Inside-Out, all of my students, our hosts at the facility, and my colleagues at Western
New England University School of Law, particularly our Associate Dean for Academic Affairs,
Beth Cohen. Thanks too to James Forman, Jr. for commenting on an earlier draft, and to Kristin
Bumiller for visiting our class and providing helpful guidance.
1.	

The Network, College of Liberal Arts Temple University (2010), available at http://www.
insideoutcenter.org/national-presence.html.

2.	

Villanova University School of Law has subsequently offered an Inside-Out course, and
at the time of the writing of this article, law professors at schools including Yale and Notre
Dame also had completed Inside-Out training.

Journal of Legal Education, Volume 62, Number 2 (November 2012)

208	

Journal of Legal Education

Why Inside-Out?
After several years of teaching criminal law and related electives in
a traditional law school format, I began looking for ways to enrich my
curriculum. I came to teaching after practicing as a public defender, and
held a clinical teaching fellowship before transitioning to podium teaching.
Although I absolutely believed in the value of learning “to think like a lawyer”
through case analysis, I also saw that my students’ views were heavily shaped
by their life experiences and intuition. I thought that they would be betterprepared lawyers if they had more direct exposure to the criminal punishment
system.3
I was considering the idea of approaching a correctional facility to develop
a collaborative project when I met Amherst College Professor Kristin
Bumiller. She told me that a group of professors was already doing what I was
considering—through the Inside-Out network. I visited Kristin’s Inside-Out
class, offered at the county jail in Northampton, Massachusetts, and I enrolled
in training.
Soon I found myself at a retreat center outside of Philadelphia in an intense
week-long training program that included time in the Philadelphia jails and at
Graterford prison. At Graterford, we participated in a two-day mini version of
an Inside-Out course, led by a group of experienced “inside” students, alumni
of the program. (In Inside-Out nomenclature, the incarcerated students are
“inside” students, and the free world students are “outside” students).
It may be easy to guess why Inside-Out is valuable to the incarcerated.
There are an unprecedented number of incarcerated people in the United
States—currently 2.3 million.4 Most of them have received a grossly inadequate
education.5 Despite this tremendous need, incarcerated students are restricted
from receiving many important sources of funding for education, such as
federal Pell grants.6
3.	

I will follow the example of Teri Miller, Dean Spade and others by using the term “criminal
punishment system” rather than “criminal justice system.” See, e.g., Teresa A. Miller, Lessons
Learned, Lessons Lost: Immigration Enforcement’s Failed Experiment with Penal Severity,
38 Fordham Urb. L.J. 217 (2010); Dean Spade, Keynote Address: Trans Law Reform
Strategies: Co-Optation, and the Potential for Transformative Change, 30 Women’s Rts. L.
Rep. 288 (2009).

4.	

Incarceration, The Sentencing Project, available at http://www.sentencingproject.org/
template/page.cfm?id=107.

5.	

U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Education & Research, Literacy Behind Prison Walls:
Profiles of the National Adult Literacy Survey at xviii (Oct. 1994) (finding that seven of ten
inmates perform at the lowest two levels of literacy, as measured on a five-level instrument).

6.	

Daniel Karpowitz & Max Kenner, Education as Crime Prevention: The Case for Reinstating
Pell Grant Eligibility for the Incarcerated at 7, Bard Prison Initiative, available at https://www.
stcloudstate.edu/continuingstudies/distance/documents/EducationasCrimePrevention
TheCaseForReinstatingthePellGrantforOffendersKarpowitzandKenner.pdf (writing that
the number of post-secondary education programs for the incarcerated in New York State
fell from 70 to 4 after the abolition of Pell grants to the incarcerated in 1994); Laura E. Gorgol
& Brian A. Sponsler, Unlocking Potential: Results of a National Survey of Post-Secondary

Inside-Out as Law School Pedagogy

209

The racial disparities in incarceration7 make this educational divide morally
intolerable. Commentators describe a racialized “school-to-prison-pipeline,”
in which sub-standard free-world education and harsh criminal punishment
policies work together to produce synergistic, subordinating effects.8
There are also pragmatic reasons why education for the incarcerated
benefits the free world. The vast majority of the incarcerated will be released.9
Studies suggest that schooling may reduce recidivism.10 One 1997 study for
the U.S. Department of Education reported that participating in some type of
schooling while incarcerated reduced the risk that a student would return to
prison by 29 percent.11
But these are not the reasons that I decided to teach a law course in an
Inside-Out format. I did it because I believed it was invaluable for the law
students. My hope is that the law students will draw on this experience in
their legal careers. Today’s law students someday will be in a position to make
many decisions—as prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, legislators, and
Education in State Prisons at 2, 6-8, 18 (May 2011), available at https://www.widernet.org/
sites/default/files/Unlocking_Potential-PSCE_FINAL_REPORT_May_2011.pdf
(noting that the number of post-secondary correctional education programs had rebounded
to pre-1994 levels by 2005, and that some federal sources of funding had been made available
to youth offenders, but still concluding that “incarcerated persons are ineligible for nearly all
federal and state need-based financial aid programs”).
7.	

Racial Disparity, The Sentencing Project, http://www.sentencingproject.org/template/
page.cfm?id=122 (reporting that African-American and Latino prisoners comprise 60
percent of U.S. inmates).

8.	

See Katayoon Majd, Students of the Mass Incarceration Nation, 54 Howard L.J. 343, 34647 (2011) (arguing that “the education and justice systems . . . have developed a ‘symbiotic
relationship,’ effectively working together to lock out large numbers of youth of color
from societal opportunity and advantage”) (internal citations omitted). See, e.g., NAACP,
Misplaced Priorities: Over-Incarcerate, Under-Educate (Apr. 2011) (drawing a direct
connection between increased state spending on prisons and reduced resources for schools
for poor children of color).

9.	

Gorgol & Sponsler, supra note 6, at 16 (estimating that 95 percent of prisoners will return
to the free world); Justin Brooks, Addressing Recidivism: Legal Education in Correctional
Settings, 44 Rutgers L. Rev. 699, 702-05 (1992).

10.	

Karpowitz & Kenner, supra note 6, at 4-6; see Gregory A. Knott, Cost and Punishment:
Reassessing Incarceration Costs and the Value of College-in-Prison Programs, 32 N.Ill. U.L.
Rev. 267, 268 (2012) (arguing that “college-in-prison programs are an effective response to
prison population growth and costs explosions.”); Michelle Fine et al., Changing Minds:
The Impact of College in a Maximum Security Prison (Sept. 2001) (reporting that “women
who attended college while in prison [at Bedford Hills] were significantly less likely to be
reincarcerated (7.7 percent) than those who did not attend college while in prison (29.9
percent)”); Correctional Education Association, Education Reduces Crime: Three-State
Recidivism Study (2003) (demonstrating statistically significant lower rates of recidivism for
participants in corrections education in Ohio and Minnesota); Sylvia G. McCollum, Prison
College Programs, 73 The Prison Journal 51, 58-59 (1994) (listing studies that suggest a lower
recidivism rate for prisoners who have completed educational programs while incarcerated).

11.	

Karpowitz & Kenner, supra note 6, at 4 n.7 (quoting Steurer, Smith & Tracy, The Three State
Recidivism Study, U.S. Department of Education (1997)).

210	

Journal of Legal Education

state attorneys general. Their choices can greatly impact the administration
of our criminal stigma systems. I wanted future lawyers to view people in the
criminal punishment system as human beings, and to understand all of the
costs of incarceration.12
It took some time to find the right facility. In western Massachusetts, InsideOut is so popular among undergraduate professors that it is difficult to find
a space in which to teach. Institutions have limited facilities in which classes
can meet, and at some correctional institutions, there is considerable turnover,
or only a small number of inmates with educational qualifications sufficient
to take advantage of the opportunity. I approached a few institutions before
being referred by a correctional administrator to the facility where I taught.
I was lucky to find a facility with a welcoming staff. It is a secure, residential
facility, but also a permeable facility in the sense that most residents leave four
days per week for work release. We met on Friday mornings, when residents
are typically in programming.
What is Inside-Out?
Founder Lori Pompa credits a Pennsylvania prisoner with suggesting
the idea for an ongoing Inside-Out program. In 1995, Lori took Temple
students on a day trip to a Pennsylvania prison. After a compelling discussion
between college students and inmates, a prisoner there suggested continuing
the conversation and making it permanent.13 She started teaching at the
Philadelphia jails in 1997.14 Ultimately, Inside-Out spread to the Pennsylvania
State Correctional Institution at Graterford, where a standing group of inside
alumni functions as a “think tank,” providing direction for the program.15
Meanwhile, other Temple professors began teaching in an Inside-Out format.
In 2003, Pompa was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship to conduct national
training workshops to replicate the program.16 Today, more than 300 professors
from 150 institutions have been trained, offering 300 Inside-Out courses
that have involved 10,000 students.17 A list serve connects professors across
12.	

Cf. James Forman, Jr., Why Care About Mass Incarceration?, 108 Mich. L. Rev. 993, 1007
(2010) (arguing that “America’s prison policies hurt us all” because prisons have too little
education and too much “violence and unnecessary degradation”).

13.	

The Inside-Out Timeline, College of Liberal Arts Temple University (2010), available
at http://www.insideoutcenter.org/timeline.html; see Lori Pompa, Service-Learning as
Crucible: Reflections on Immersion, Context, Power, and Transformation, 9 Mich. J.
Comm. Service Learning 67 (2002).

14.	

Inside-Out Timeline, College of Liberal Arts Temple University (2010), available at http://
www.insideoutcenter.org/timeline.html.

15.	

Id.

16.	

The Network, College of Liberal Arts Temple University (2010), available at http://www.
insideoutcenter.org/national-presence.html.

17.	

Id.

Inside-Out as Law School Pedagogy

211

disciplines and institutions, all of whom are interested in issues of education
and incarceration.
Pompa sometimes describes Inside-Out by explaining what it is not.18 It is
not “an opportunity to do research,” “an opportunity for charity,” “a ‘scared
straight’ program,” “a whistle-blowing program,” or “a vehicle for developing
relationships that will exist outside of the parameters of the program.”19
Inside-Out requires semi-anonymity (first names only) for all participants, and
forbids contact between inside and outside students outside of the classroom
(e.g., no phone calls, no visits, no letters).
Although Inside-Out aspires to improve the educational attainment of
those who are imprisoned, and some Inside-Out courses offer college credit
through cooperating institutions to inside students, traditional correctional
education is not its main focus. Other well-regarded programs strive primarily
to educate the incarcerated. The Bard Prison Initiative, founded in 1999 at
Bard College, offers B.A. and A.A. degree programs to the incarcerated at
five prison campuses in New York.20 Bard College students volunteer through
the program.21 The Wesleyan Center for Prison Education offers courses at
Connecticut institutions.22 In the District of Columbia, David Domenici and
James Forman, Jr. founded the Maya Angelou Academy, a model educational
program for incarcerated juveniles, in which Forman, a law professor, involved
Georgetown law students.23
By contrast, Inside-Out is designed as a “transformative” educational
experience.24 It is described as an “embodied experience,” meaning that the
learning that occurs is not solely cerebral.25 Outside students gain personal
experience of the criminal punishment system by placing themselves in new
and sometimes uncomfortable settings. Outside students actually experience
some corrections routines; they meet officers and inmates; they take classes
18.	

Clarifications, College of Liberal Arts Temple University (2010), available at http://www.
insideoutcenter.org/clarification.html.

19.	

Id.

20.	 Bard Prison Initiative, Bard College, available at http://www.bard.edu/bpi/; see Daniel
Karpowitz, Prison, College, and the Paradox of Punishment, in Crime and Punishment:
Perspectives From the Humanities 305-331 (Austin Sarat, ed., Elsevier 2005) (special volume
37 of Studies in Law, Politics, and Society).
21.	

Bard Prison Initiative, Bard College, available at http://www.bard.edu/bpi/.

22.	 http://www.wesleyan.edu/cpe/.
23.	 David Domenici & James Forman, Jr., What it Takes to Transform a School Inside a Juvenile
Justice Facility: The Story of the Maya Angelou Academy, in Justice for Kids: Keeping Kids
Out of the Juvenile Justice System, at 283 (Nancy Dowd, ed., NYU Press 2011); Karen
Houppert, School of Second Chances, Wash. Post Magazine, Apr. 12, 2009.
24.	 See, e.g., Lori Pompa, Breaking Down the Walls: Inside-Out Learning and the Pedagogy of
Transformation, in Challenging the Prison-Industrial Complex, at 253-272 (Stephen John
Hartnett, ed., Univ. of Illinois Press 2011).
25.	 Philosophy, College of Liberal Arts Temple University (2010), available at http://www.
insideoutcenter.org/philosophy.html.

212	

Journal of Legal Education

within rooms at the correctional facility; they talk with prisoners about the
experience of incarceration. The goal is for inside and outside students to
re-examine their pre-existing notions about crime and punishment through
conversation with one another.26 Pompa’s goal in creating the program was to
spur students to question—to ask who is incarcerated, how the system operates,
and what students might do to change it.27
Inside-Out is not about advocacy to change conditions in correctional
facilities, or about political activism. In my previous work, I had functioned
as an attorney, and, later, as a teacher for future advocates. However, I was
willing to forego my accustomed lawyer role in order to create this educational
experience for law students. And although I see the importance of political
engagement to reduce the nation’s reliance on incarceration, I am willing to
invest in dialogue and experiential learning to promote change in the longterm.
In my course, I expressly addressed the potentially exploitative aspects
of the program. One concern that can surface is what tangible benefit inside
students gain if they are not receiving course credit. The converse question is
why the inside students should receive a free course, when outside students pay
tuition. My response to both these questions is that the program has intrinsic
intellectual and experiential value for both groups of participants. Students
have to judge for themselves whether it is worth it.
Another controversial aspect of Inside-Out is the facility tour. The typical
curriculum provides for a tour of the institution for outside students during
the course. Some view this as intrusive and voyeuristic, while others argue
that it is an integral part of the experience for the outside students. The first
semester that I offered the course, our outside group made the decision not to
tour the facility, a choice that I maintained the second semester that I taught.
Instead, we invited the inside students, accompanied by our facility liaison, to
visit WNE for our penultimate class. Our academic dean greeted our guests;
we held class in our moot courtroom; and the law students hosted a potluck for
our inside colleagues. The campus meeting was so successful that we repeated
it when I offered the course a second time. This facet of our semester is one
advantage of teaching in a permeable, low-security facility.
Teaching Law in an Inside-Out Format
Inside-Out courses are typically undergraduate classes. They cover a wide
range of subject areas (although many do address some aspect of criminal
punishment).28 My course was different because it was a class in the law. Not
26.	 Id.
27.	

Pompa, supra note 13, at 67.

28.	 Id. at 259 (describing “dozens” of courses in “many and varied disciplines”); see Simone Weil
Davis, Inside-Out: The Reaches and Limits of a Prison Program, in Razor Wire Women,
at 203 (Jodie Michelle Lawston & Ashley E. Lucas, eds., SUNY Press 2011) (describing a
writing course in an all-women’s facility, involving “outside” students from a women’s liberal
arts college, that focused on therapeutic writing).

Inside-Out as Law School Pedagogy

213

surprisingly, there were many challenges to teaching a law school course,
including traditional law students, in a correctional facility. How much reading
should I assign? What should I select as an entry point for discussion? How
much background should I provide to the legal doctrines discussed in the
cases?
I chose to adapt my Gender & Criminal Law course to an Inside-Out
format. In the traditional law school classroom, the first half of the story is
devoted to two feminist law reform efforts—rape law and domestic violence—
and critiques of those movements, from the right and the left. The second half
of the traditional seminar is devoted to issues of gender in sentencing and
corrections.
For the Inside-Out version, I modified my materials in a number of ways. I
eliminated the rape law reform movement unit, because I did not want to begin
with a topic that is so fraught in an environment that is inherently sensitive,
and in which we were building trust. Since we met once per week in a longer
class (to reduce travel time and time lost to security checks), I consolidated
units. I reduced the amount of reading somewhat, but not significantly. For
each unit, I continued to assign a couple of cases, as well as some very short
(and I hoped provocative) excerpts from law review articles. Like in my
traditional course, I required response papers. The first time I taught InsideOut, I required these papers of a couple of discussion leaders each week. I
found the reflection papers to be so helpful in promoting engagement that the
second time around, I asked all students to write a reflection paper every week
As I do in some first-year courses, I posted reflection questions designed to
direct the students to the most important concepts in the reading.
The second time I taught Inside-Out, I hired one of the law students who
had completed the course the previous year as my Research and Teaching
Assistant. He visited the facility a couple of times per week outside of regular
class hours, to support inside students with their writing.
I did some additional framing for the Inside-Out version of the course. The
model Inside-Out curriculum suggests that the inside and outside groups meet
separately the first week, to receive an orientation to the rules. The second class
is the first meeting of the two groups, which includes some structured group
activities designed to promote interaction. The third class meeting is again
separate, with an opportunity to debrief and address any issues. This format
obviously takes a significant amount of class time. One potential solution is to
require Inside-Out law school participants to attend a couple of class meetings
before the semester begins (as do many law school clinics), or in addition
to regularly scheduled class meetings. The second semester that I taught, I
adopted this approach, doing some of the debriefing in additional sessions
outside of regularly-scheduled class time.

214	

Journal of Legal Education

Inside-Out courses typically are organized in an interactive discussion
format.29 I adapted some of these techniques for the legal curriculum. I should
caveat this passage by noting that I was reluctant at first because some of these
methods may seem hokey, particularly to hard-nosed law teachers. However, I
can attest that they proved effective. By relieving students of the responsibility
of mingling and making conversation, these formats reduced awkwardness
and provided participants with a sense of security. For example, I invited
my students to sit in a circle, alternating inside and outside participants—an
Inside-Out technique designed to promote a non-hierarchical atmosphere and
interaction between inside and outside students.30
At the beginning of the semester, as is typical in Inside-Out courses,
participants developed their own guidelines for discussion.31 Believe it or not,
this collaborative process really did help students to maintain a collegial tone;
manage conflict when it arose; and keep their comments to a reasonable length.
I also broke students into small groups to discuss specific questions and
report to the larger group. For example, I might put up a quote from an
opinion or from an author and ask the groups to discuss. I might ask them to
parse the reasoning of an opinion in their small groups, and to explain it to
one another. Or I might ask them to talk about whether they agreed with the
majority or dissent in a case. I would frequently circulate to pass out readings
for the following week and keep tabs on whether the groups were on track.
As in a traditional classroom, I found this to be a good device for generating
discussion rather than asking for volunteers in a large group in which students
might feel uncomfortable. However, more than in the regular law school
classroom, the small group exchanges provided an opportunity for students to
engage in real dialogue about criminal justice issues.
Another technique used in Inside-Out training is to pose the same check-in
question to each participant in turn at the opening of the session. I adapted
this to the law course by asking a question related to the week’s readings. I
would ask which case or article excerpt participants most wanted to discuss—
or which most angered or surprised them. On a number of occasions, this
check-in prompted me to alter the order of my lesson plan, to take advantage
of the momentum of the students’ interest. For example, in the domestic
violence unit in the traditional classroom, I typically begin with an excerpt
from a law review article describing how domestic violence was treated in the
courts in the 19th century.32 During my Inside-Out semester, however, the
students overwhelmingly wanted to begin by discussing the City of Torrington
29.	 See, e.g., Sarah Allred, The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program: The Impact of Structure,
Content, and Readings, 60 J. Correctional Educ. 240 (2009) (concluding based on student
reflection papers and feedback that the structure of the course promoted student learning).
30.	 Pompa, supra note 13, at 72.
31.	

Id.

32.	 See, e.g., Reva Siegel, The Rule of Love: Wife Beating as Prerogative and Privacy, 105 Yale
L.J. 2117 (1996).

Inside-Out as Law School Pedagogy

215

case,33 a milestone in the domestic violence movement, which occurred in
nearby Torrington, Connecticut.
Although some Inside-Out colleagues initially questioned whether a law
school class would work in an Inside-Out format, in many ways, legal courses
may be a particularly effective vehicle for Inside-Out. Commentators have
argued that legal education is well-suited to a carceral setting because law
courses can be participatory; they help inmates to develop their analytical
capacities; and they can change students’ views of the law’s relationship to
society.34 After visiting my class, Kristin Bumiller noted the advantages of the
case method. Cases are stories—they are accessible; often compelling; and, in
Kristin’s words, cases are “bounded,” meaning that they provide students with
a shared text and finite number of facts and concepts to discuss. Many of the
issues in the cases are timely and relevant to both groups of students.
There were a couple of tactics that I used to make the case method more
manageable for inside students. I provided a short sketch of legal doctrine
as background, to a greater extent than I would in a typical upper-division
law school course. I also found it useful, at least in the beginning, to call on
inside students to state the facts of the case, and then to ask a law student to
take the first shot at answering questions regarding legal analysis. This leveled
the playing field, to an extent. Because many of our inside students read very
carefully (the law students were amazed), they often had extremely detailed
knowledge of the facts. A law student could then take the lead in helping
us through the legal reasoning. After unpacking the legal analysis, I could
ask some opinion or policy questions that would open up dialogue for all
participants. That final step—the exchange of participants’ views on policy
choices—is the greatest comparative strength of the Inside-Out model.
Benefits of Inside-Out for Law Students
There were numerous benefits to teaching in an Inside-Out format. InsideOut is described by its founder as an “embodied” experience, and that is
certainly the case. The reality of going through security and of meeting
inside the facility makes an impression on law students that simply cannot be
duplicated by a speaker’s description, a reading, or even a film.35
As might be expected, inside students’ contributions to the discussions
enriched the course. Typically, my traditional Gender & Criminal Law seminar
includes some spirited exchanges. But as in many law school courses, students
tend to fall into roles for the semester—the progressive, the social conservative,
the libertarian. In the Inside-Out classroom, inside students sometimes voiced
counter-intuitive views, which could undermine stereotypes. Our discussion
33.	

Thurman v. City of Torrington, 595 F. Supp. 1521 (D. Conn. 1984).

34.	 Brooks, supra note 9, at 719, 721, 727.
35.	

Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, Reflections on 60 Years of Outside Scrutiny of Prisons and
Prison Policy in the United States, 30 Pace L. Rev. 1446, 1451 (Fall 2010) (suggesting that
judges and law students should visit prisons).

216	

Journal of Legal Education

of cases about substance-abusing pregnant women, for example, was much
more nuanced because of the presence of inside students.
Inside students sometimes also spoke about their own experiences in a
way that helped us all to understand the human cost of criminal punishment
policies. For example, in the traditional seminar, I assign excerpts from readings
about the role of family ties in sentencing. Not surprisingly, the Inside-Out
classroom discussion was much more hard-hitting than the typical abstract
seminar exchange. Discussions of policing, police interrogation tactics, and
parole supervision were also much richer.
Through our class discussions, the law students realized how their life
experiences (and the limits of those experiences) could affect their lawyering.
In a class on mothers accused of killing children, I assigned an article by
Michelle Oberman that described possible circumstances that may have
produced the fatal injury of a child.36 Our discussion helped the outside
students to realize that, as lawyers, they might miss key facts about a case if
they rely on assumptions about clients’ or victims’ lives, rather than asking
questions or seeking to educate themselves.
The most notable benefit of the course was one that I had not fully
anticipated. It was the behavior of the law students. I have never seen law
students speak or think as carefully about issues of criminal law, sentencing,
and corrections policy as in an Inside-Out course. In a traditional law school
classroom, in which we place a premium on the development of rhetorical
skills, it is all too easy to fall into knee-jerk positions (whether law-and-order
or bleeding heart liberal). In the presence of the inside students, however, law
students were thoughtful and deliberate in their comments. I did not perceive
that they edited themselves unduly, or avoided controversial positions.
However, unlike my experience in some traditional settings, the law students
refrained from making provocative remarks for the shock value alone; they
listened and responded to one another rather than getting into back-and-forth
exchanges to show off or score points; and they avoided glib generalizations.
Applying Inside-Out in a Traditional Law School Format
My Inside-Out experience added some new dimensions to my regular law
teaching. After Inside-Out, I incorporated more participatory, interactive
techniques into my traditional classroom teaching. For example, where I
previously would arrive to class prepared to do a brief review and then launch
into my lesson plan, I increasingly posed a question to the class about the
prior lesson or the day’s reading, Inside-Out style. Once I started doing this, it
struck me as strange that I formerly had jumped into the day’s subject matter
without first taking the temperature of the class. I also found that, in contrast
to the traditional Socratic Method in which one student is asked to perform
while the others are permitted to tune out, asking the same question of each
student both kept the pressure on by requiring a response from everyone,
36.	 Michelle Oberman, Judging Vanessa: Norm Setting and Deviance in the Law of
Motherhood, 15 Wm. & Mary J. Women & L. 337 (2009).

Inside-Out as Law School Pedagogy

217

and took the pressure off by ensuring that no one person was singled out for
interrogation.
Of course, the success of this check-in approach depends in large part
on the value of the entry-point question that is posed. A concrete question
about the facts will not provide much grist for discussion, and a question that
is too general (e.g., “Any reactions to the readings?”) will not provoke very
interesting responses. I found the most effective queries to be open-ended
questions that provided some focus (questions that are “ajar”). For example,
I would ask what people were most excited to discuss, or whether they agreed
with a particular judge’s or author’s view.
Another benefit of the course was indirect and not unique to InsideOut, but also worth noting. Because no electronic devices are permitted in
the correctional facility, law students were not able to bring in their laptops
and phones. As a result, the conversation was much more engaged. We were
all in a room together—talking with one another. The novel nature of the
exchange only heightened the intensity of the dialogue. Indeed, my InsideOut experience was so powerful that it has prompted me to consider banning
laptops in my traditional law school classes, a position that other law teachers
have championed.37
With the support of my law school and our collaborating facility, I plan to
teach a course in an Inside-Out format again in the future. I hope that other
law professors will join me considering this model, and other methods for
engaging incarceration in our law teaching. For more information, visit the
Inside-Out web site at www.insideoutcenter.org, or contact me at gshay@law.
wne.edu.

37.	

See, e.g., David Cole, Laptops vs. Learning, Wash. Post, Apr. 7, 2007, available at http://www.
washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/06/AR2007040601544.html.

 

 

Prison Phone Justice Campaign
Advertise Here 2nd Ad
Federal Prison Handbook - Side