Eight ‘Outside’ students from Holy Family University and nine ‘Inside’ students from the Bucks County Men's Community Correctional Center have been learning together – and from each other – in a course titled, “American Criminal Justice through the lens of alcohol and drugs.” The eight-week course served as a pilot program for both the correctional institution and the University, culminating with the presentation of a final paper, recommending successful re-entry programs for incarcerated individuals into the community.
The paper, “Bucks County Coalition: Needs and Opportunities from the Inside Out,” aims to inform programmatic discussions in Bucks County, and participants were invited to present the paper at an upcoming meeting of the Bucks County Re-entry Coalition.
“What’s remarkable is the transformative effect that the class is having on all the students and the potential impact of their work to inspire positive change,” said Pat Griffin, PhD, Assistant Professor and Director of the Graduate Criminal Justice Program at Holy Family University.
In order for students to take what they’ve learned and make links to the practical world, Dr. Griffin recommended, and the class agreed, to take on the role of subcommittee work in support of the newly formed Bucks County Re-entry Coalition. The Inside-Out students formed four subcommittees:
- Family Services and Mentoring,
- Developmental Services,
- Physical and Behavioral Health, and
- Transportation and Housing
The Inside students were able to bring ideas and observations based on experience and other information to them at the Correctional Center. The Outside students engaged in academic research, connecting to the community to bring empirical evidence, support, and examples into the discussion.
“This course has been a liberating and humbling experience, said one Outside student. “It has helped me to break stigmas and biases that I once associated with incarcerated individuals and their beliefs about the criminal justice system.”
One Inside student said, “I took a lot from the class, but one of the main things that stood out for me the most was how and why laws came to be what they are today. Also the disparity and racial stigma behind drugs. This experience has allowed me to view the criminal justice system in a way that I now question the lack of understanding behind substance abuse and crime.”
In addition, the course has inspired some students to consider employment opportunities in the corrections system.
The course ended on February 25, 2020 with a Closing Ceremony held at the Bucks County Men’s Community Correctional Center. Michael Markowitz, Vice President of Academic Affairs for Holy Family University, presented “Certificates of Completion” to all students. Also in attendance were:
- Jeff Contino, Deputy Superintendent, The Bucks County Department of Corrections
- David Kratz, Deputy Director, The Bucks County Department of Corrections
- Diane Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW, Bucks County Commissioner (Chair)
- Kevin Rousset, Superintendent, The Bucks County Department of Corrections
- Chris Pirolli, Director, The Bucks County Department of Corrections
- Sean Ryan, Chief Adult Probation/Parole Officer Bucks County (ret.)
- Ann Schwartzman, The Inside-Out Center, Temple University