CCC class provides opportunity to work with prison inmates

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF PATTY SALAZAR - Clackamas students talk to Titus (far right) about his duties in the woodshop where he works with other MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility residents. The residents get paid to make pallets for local business and other wood products they make are sent to the Army.Wednesday afternoons this year have seen several Clackamas Community College students put behind bars. Not for crimes committed, but in the name of education. They attend Criminal Justice 199 alongside inmate students at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn.

Abe Rios, a program director and assistant superintendent at the facility, and a few of the inmates gave CCC students and their instructor, Ida Flippo, a tour of MacLaren before one of those class sessions, which conclude this week with spring term finals. The first stop was where the inmates actually live.

“Kincaid is a different program from what you will see in other living units. It’s not the same; this is more of a higher end youth that do fairly well on campus,” Rios said. “They pretty much take care of business. (They are) involved in college courses, full-time work or doing some kind of academic work.”

The comfortable and relaxed atmosphere in the Kincaid Unit was not the steel and concrete fortress with armed guards one would expect at a youth detention facility. Widescreen televisions, couches and even computer access for homework were available for the prisoners’ use. Inmates in the unit have more privileges because of good behavior and have the opportunity to enroll in college classes.

Only first names of inmates were provided for this story. Noah is an inmate who resides at Kincaid and is also a student in CJA-199. Residents in the Kincaid Unit enjoy more privileges than the average inmate at MacLaren.

“This is a self-managing unit. The idea is that we are old enough now and we’ve shown that we can earn the responsibility to take care of ourselves and we don’t have to be micro managed every minute,” Noah said.

Stephan, a MacLaren resident, has completed 82 college credits at Lane Community College, not including CJA-199 at Clackamas. All of his college coursework has been completed while incarcerated. He plans to have an associate degree by the end of this term. His goal is to enroll at Oregon State University and obtain a degree in human resources.

“My whole purpose in going to school is to better my surroundings that I came from; because it’s (gang/drug life) just a cycle and I don’t want any part of keeping that cycle going. Someone’s got to stop it,” Stephan said.

Real college experience

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program works with institutions of higher learning and correctional systems to deepen the conversation about and transform approaches to understanding crime, justice, freedom, inequality and other issues of social concern. More information about the program can be found at

The spring schedule of classes describes CJA-199, Inside Corrections, as bringing a group of students from CCC together with a group of residents of a correctional facility to gain a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system through the marriage of theoretical knowledge and practical experience achieved by weekly meetings at the facility. Students will explore ideas about crime and justice, the criminal justice system, corrections and incarceration.

The four-credit class was held at the correctional facility most Wednesdays this spring from 1 to 4:50 p.m. The learning experience is an opportunity for criminal justice and corrections students to see their field from the inside.

Across the correctional campus, the students gathered in the facility’s educational buildings in a classroom. Students discussed the tour of the grounds and how it made them feel.

“Is there anything you want to talk about that stuck out?” Flippo asked the class.

Danna, a CCC student, replied: “I like all the different work opportunities. I didn’t realize all the different opportunities that they (inmates) have.”

Although the inmates at MacLaren can take online classes, CJA-199 gives them a chance to experience education more traditionally.

“The inside students really appreciated this opportunity because it gave them more of a real college experience than just communicating online with their instructors or with their fellow students,” Flippo said.

Inmates and CCC students were asked the following questions about their experiences in CJA-199:

What will you take with you from Inside-Out?

How, if at all, has Inside-Out changed you?

What would you tell a friend about Inside-Out?

What has Inside-Out meant to you?

Adam: I will take away the ability to see the law from the perspective of the inside students. It is an experience you have to see to believe. I will become a cop, and have found the experience valuable in many ways.

Amy: When I began this course as an “outside” student, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I had not previously spent any time with anyone who had been incarcerated. I was a little nervous and apprehensive, but have realized that if I hadn’t met these young men inside a correctional facility I never would have been able to the tell the difference between the “inside” and outside students. This class has been invaluable to me. It has given me more insight than an entire term full of standard corrections classes could give me based on the interaction and insight from the inside students. We all have a stake in the future of the correctional system, whether we are eventually being released from it, have a future career in it, or just become a regular citizen who is also affected by it. I hope this course will give us all a deeper knowledge of different opinions, and a new found respect for everyone’s opinion, even if it is different than our own.

Andrew: I will take away the knowledge that was shared between the class. It has given me a better outlook on the criminal justice system. Inside out has meant a new start and beginning, and an understanding of others’ outlooks. Great class.

Ben: I will take the knowledge as well as the reasons behind everybody’s thinking. It changed my way of thinking. it opened my eyes. It is a great way to learn, not only about the subject in general, but also the inside students. It is fun. It gave me a chance to open up and listen to what they had to say instead of what media had to say.

Beverly: I will take with me a positive attitude, and will advocate for more classes and opportunities. It has given me an open opinion of inside students, and opportunities for them. It was an awesome opportunity to get information from both sides of the criminal justice system. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this class, and would be interested in other classes as well.

Cindy: I will take with me a lot more knowledge about corrections; also a look on the inside. It gives me a better perspective of inside corrections—what all goes into it. It is a great opportunity to take this class if you are going into the criminal justice program. It gave me more knowledge about the career path that I am taking. Great class. Enjoyed both inside and outside students. Also enjoyed the teachers. Great opportunity.

Danna: Great lessons from class and small group discussions, fond memories, and a greater sense of self-awareness. This class helped me learn how to explain my past struggles in a more positive light. This was a very unique and eye-opening experience that I would highly recommend anyone coming into this field to take. This experience has meant so much to me, and I will continue to carry these lessons and memories with me forever. This class has not only helped me understand corrections better than I did before; it helped immensely with my personal growth.

Felicia: I’ve learned a lot about the criminal justice system, from an inside perspective. I now know how many flaws our criminal justice system has, and a little bit about how it works inside a correctional facility. Inside-Out has helped me to throw out the stereotypical way of thinking that all incarcerated people deserve to be locked up and are bad people. I now know that some are just normal people who made a mistake in life, and everyone makes mistakes. I’m very grateful to have been a part of this group.

Griffin: I will take with me the experience I gained from being in an active classroom and knowledge I gained through other peers. It kind of changed my thinking about certain aspects of the criminal justice system. It opened my eyes on a lot of problems with prisons. It was a good experience, and I enjoyed it. It meant a change in learning and breaking barriers to the community’s involvement with people who are incarcerated.

Jeff: I think I have gained more empathy for juvenile offenders. It is a very important class to take if you are going to work in this field. It gave me a better understanding of what juvenile offenders go through in the facility and how they feel.

Kayla: This program has given me an appreciation and awareness of: the barriers incarceration creates and the domination of united experiences shared by all, Inside and Out. I will take with me the motivation and faith to push for the resources and changes needed to expose the united experiences and alter the perceptions and negative projections currently experienced by those who are incarcerated. Inside-Out has changed my perspective of: the proposed purpose of the prison system and my misconceptions that offenders receive an abundance of amenities while incarcerated. The reality is that so many more resources are needed in order to produce the “change” society wants to see. Inside-Out is an experience that will alter your perceptions and change the way you interact and approach those in your community. It is an opportunity to experience and learn from other people’s experiences the realities and barriers from both sides of the fence. Inside-Out is an experience that provides a meaningful learning opportunity that a textbook could never capture.

Marino: I have learned a great deal and the program has definitely broadened my perspective in the criminal justice system. The data the book presented was unbelievable and very informative. The different people involved made the program more diverse and brought a significant amount of input from both sides. I believe the Inside-Out program was very useful because it gave good insights in terms of risk factors involved and the rate of recidivism and how they classify offenders, but most important was the reason why some offenders were still coming back into the prisons. The knowledge now will be useful. I believe everyone in the system should take this program so that they can receive the proper education about prisons and take a step towards recover and integrating back into their community.

Noah: I will take a way a deeper understanding of the criminal justice practice. It is a great opportunity to grown mentally through a positive group environment. It has been a chance to change any preexisting stereotypes. The teachers are awesome!

Robert: I will take away the interaction in a classroom setting. It has given me a new perspective and more to now look at. I would tell others that it is an experiment, and gives a new meaning and depth. Shannon: It was a great experience. It has helped me change the way I view the justice system. It’s a class I would recommend for everyone.

Stacey P: This class has given me a new way of seeing the system—a lens that brings into focus the distorted stereotypes and myths. Inside-Out has opened my eyes to so many new perspectives about our criminal justice system. I would tell others to take advantage of a life changing experience. I think by hearing perspectives from those experiencing the system first hand, it will help me in my career as a counselor in the future. Awesome class.

Stacy: I will take with me a respect for the inside students as individuals, as students. It was a great experience that made me want to work harder to be a part of the juvenile system. It has given me the opportunity to open my mind to the supposed “juvenile criminals,” and not be so judgmental. It has been an honor to learn about corrections from these individuals who are living inside these walls every day. Their views are necessary to start making changes in our system and creating real justice.

Susan: From this class I will take a very different perspective. These inside students are genuine people that made unfortunate mistakes at some point in their lives. They are working very hard to change society’s perception of the typical “juvenile delinquent.” I am impressed with the effort that they are exerting. At the beginning I was very nervous. TI think most of us were. It took one class to change that. My entire opinion of how the criminal justice system “should” function has changed. This class has been the most rewarding for me in my two years as a criminal justice student. If you have the opportunity to take it, it’s well worth it. I would take it again. Inside-Out has meant to me that we all have something to learn from each other, regardless of our “social status.” We’re all human. We all make mistakes. What matters is how you attempt to recover from your mistakes. Stephen: I will take away the sense of acceptance from this little community, because for so long I felt unwanted by society for the crime I committed. Not only has it broadened my horizon of the criminal justice system’s positive end and flaws, it has stopped my stereotypical judgments of free citizens not wanting to get to know who is incarcerated. Not too many things can change my stubborn mind, but this class has altered my thinking in a positive way. Taylor: I’ll definitely take away a lot more realities about our system as well as a new perspective on inmates and various topics learned from them like Measure 11. It has changed me a lot. I feel like I just know more in general, and gained a lot of knowledge. It was a worthwhile experience! It has meant a lot to me. I was pretty clueless about the realities of our system. Titus: I will take with me a better understanding of the justice system, and knowing how a regular college class is run. It has helped me get out of my comfort zone, and taught me to open up more. It’s a good experience. It’s not what I expected, and you have to go in with an open mind. It has made me feel better that a group of people can come from the outs and treat me like just another regular person in school.

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