Prison Inside Out 2
Working together (from l-r): Wisconsin Women's Correctional System Warden Cathy Jess, Jessica Wyman, Brenda Mick, Kristine Frankiewicz, Dr. Carmen Heider of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and Kalen Ruck, Corrections Program Supervisor.
A core component of Heider's course is the final group project in which the students construct a model prison. The project resulted in a 10-page paper, "Developing a Model Facility for Women in the Wisconsin Prison System," which was submitted to Cathy (Braun) Jess, BS Criminal Justice '86, warden of Wisconsin Women's Correctional System, and to the Department of Corrections in Madison.
The students explored policies, management, architecture and structure, necessary services and programming. Some suggestions include creating a circular garden that would be tended by the residents, outfitting each laundry room with a table for folding, ID cards for residents that they could use to swipe into any room they enter (laundry, classrooms, cafeteria, etc.).
The warden welcomed the Inside-Out Program, believing that such a class structure would be beneficial to both sets of students. While the Outside students got an up-close-and-personal look at prison life, the Inside students received a view of a different world beyond the barbed wire fence. "It's given them an opportunity to look at college as part of a re-entry type of program," Jess says.
The Way In: The looming gate to Taycheedah Correctional Institution.
student Kristine Frankiewicz says she and other inmates at Taycheedah
offer a perspective about prison life only those who live it day-to-day
could. "At first, I was very nervous because I wasn't sure of how they
were going to react to us, how they were going to be judging us," says
Frankiewicz of the students from UW Oshkosh. "With this class, they got a better
understanding of why people are here, and that we're actually people,
not just numbers or mass murderers."
Frankiewicz says she plans to continue her studies after she is released, hoping for a career in communications. "I want to help the outside public understand more what's going on in the prisons and help the prisoners when they get out," she says.
As a class assignment, the students wrote to federal lawmakers about their concerns and suggestions. "Without this program, I never would have gone and written a senator or a congressman and let them know what I thought," says Frankiewicz, who has written to U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and has encouraged other like-minded inmates to do the same.
"If he gets enough mail, they're going to make a difference. We're all going to make a difference."
Corrections Program Supervisor Kalen (Stofflet) Ruck, BSW Social Work '97, says the Inside-Out Exchange Program has help the inmates see a future from themselves. "A lot of them have written letters to the university to say, 'I'm getting out soon. Can I be accepted to your university?'"
student Troy Landry plans to use the lessons he's learned from the
course and apply them to his life. "Knowing the state of women in the
criminal justice system, they need to be advocated for and they need a
As only one of only two males in the class of 20, Landry says he didn't feel targeted. "I know the power that males have in this society," says Landry, a senior, who is a major in criminal justice and women's studies.
Landry says the Inside-Out class helped him see the inmates as people. "I know a lot of problems in the criminal justice system is labeling offenders as offenders. They wear name tag that has 'offender' on it before you see their name."
He was especially moved by one specific moment in class. "One of the Inside students disclosed her case right before we left, and when she did, it touched everybody's heart. I'm sure there wasn't one person in that room who didn't have tears in their eyes."
Landry's voice softened, recalling that touching scene. "No matter what crime she committed, we knew that she was still a person, and we knew that she had values and a life, a family outside of the prison."
While Landry mulls over attending graduate school after graduation, he is sure about one thing: "I know that I will advocate for women in prison and also for women outside for the rest of my life."
COLS Special Reports student intern Katie Holliday contributed to this report. Photos by Shawn McAfee of UW Oshkosh Media Services.
For more information about the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, please visit the Inside-Out Center, which is based out of Temple University.