GPEP: What I learned in Prison

Hillary Blunt
Staff Writer

Every Monday, I travel to Maryland Correctional Institution for Women to work with Goucher students, tutoring them in both math and writing.  Through the Goucher Prison Education Partnership (GPEP), the women at the prison are taking courses taught by Goucher professors for Goucher acadmic credit.

Professor Barbara Roswell, among other community members, laid the foundations for the program many years ago through a book club she helped to start at the prison.  GPEP returned in full force this year, with its new director Amy Roza and help through a grant from Bard College, which began a similar program in 1999.

The goal of the program is to give people who are incarcerated a chance to earn a prestigious degree, despite serving a sentence. The women at the prison went through a similar admissions process to any student who attends Goucher on the Towson campus.  The academic standards at the prison are as high as any class at Goucher.

The women are wonderful.    I know from experience that they are extremely intelligent. They ask boundless questions and are typically lively and engaged in their work.

This semester, the women have been taking an Introduction to Communications course, English 104, a frontiers course taught by Professor Roswell that has students both from the main campus and from MCIW, and an Algebra I math course.

Recently, each of the women received a copy of An Enemy of the People, the same book that all incoming freshman read over the summer.

Centerstage Theatre in Baltimore performed an Enemy of the People, a play written by Arthur Miller, this fall.  The play’s director, Kwame Kwei-Armah, spoke to Goucher freshmen during their orientation week, though I was fortunate enough to hear him speak with the women of MCIW.

His talk was inspiring in a number of ways.

I was inspired as an artist when Kwei-Armah said, “The goal of art is to hold a mirror up to society and ask: do you like what you see?”  This statement helped me to think about my own art as a choreographer and find what was missing from my advanced composition class piece.

He was inspiring in the discussion he led, which surrounded the idea of the meaning behind truth.

Lastly, I was inspired by the women at the prison, who  showed great analytic thought throughout their discussion, which dissected the story and led them to ask a number of questions that were both fascinating and engaging.

Often, here on campus, I attend the large lectures given by guests and am frustrated with the questions my peers ask.  Usually, the questions seem to be asked just for the sake of asking a question,  not for provoking some sort of thought or bring about an answer that leads people in a new direction.

Unlike many on-campus Goucher events, or even classes, that I have attended, all of the students at MCIW had not just done, but also thought about the reading.

Goucher is doing its student population a great service by now including inmates into the curriculum.  It would be great if even more interaction between the two campuses were to occur.  We have a lot to learn from each other.




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