Criminology, sociology students experience prison life via tours, writing

This semester, Dr. Sarah Lazzari and her criminology and sociology students continued their study of the criminal justice system by touring two prisons and participating in a meaningful writing initiative.

Several weeks ago, Sarah and co-instructor Paul Stark took a group of students to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. While there, they toured the maximum-security prison where inmate movement is severely limited and they do not move around freely. The students also spent time in the “Death House,” where executions occur.

Another group recently toured the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville. Whle there for the day, they interacted with Donna Roberts, the only woman on death row in the state of Ohio. They also talked with a group of women who are enrolled in the reformatory’s Horizon Program, a yearlong initiative where incarcerated women live in dormitory-style arrangements and take courses in multi-faith spiritual development, victim awareness and trauma recovery, all designed to break cyclical incarceration. This facility looks a lot like a college campus and houses minimum-, medium- and maximum-security women, who have the ability for a lot of movement outside the buildings.

Finally, students in the k(Now) Justice class are waiting for a very special piece of mail: the final letter from their pen pals – incarcerated women with whom they’ve been communicating throughout the semester. This is the third semester for the pen pal program, titled Insight from the Inside.

“These trips were extremely different and gave the students a lot of different experiences,” Sarah said. 

These experiences elicited a lot of provocative questions from the students, such as: “As you get ready to release, what are you going to do differently with your life?” “How do you all feel when college classes come for tours? Does it feel like we're taking a zoo tour and looking at the ‘animals?’” “What can we as a society do to change things so that people don't come to prison?”

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