Juniata students bring classroom studies into local prisons


HUNTINGDON - Juniata College hosted a discussion this week on incarceration to raise awareness of what it's like to live inside a prison and the challenges inmates face once they leave.

One Juniata student said Thursday, she's part of nationwide prison exchange program called "inside-out," that has a similar goal with the conversations. They want to bring a sense of hope to inmates and encourage positive action, after they're finished with their prison sentence.

Savannah Parson, a junior at the college, attended many of the discussions during the week.

"By being able to take a college course while in prison, they see they are able to do it, enjoy it, and change their way of life," she said.

The daily discussions have been organized by sociology professor Daniel Welliver.

"Just giving them an opportunity to think systematically on college level topics is beneficial," he said Thursday. "Inmates say during the class they don't focus on the fact that they are in prison. They feel that they are in a classroom and they're students not prisoners."

Welliver believes these classes can give inmates a chance to imagine what they can do once they return to the communities, making them less likely to return to prison. But going back to a life of crime, isn't always why they find themselves behind bars again.

"It's hard to find work when you're an ex-felon," said Welliver. "There's a lot of things against you when you return home from prison and the slightest slip means the handcuffs go on."

Many speaking at the college believe in order to help an inmate from returning to prison, the entire community needs to play a role in finding a solution.

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