Program Details:

Educating Inmates in an Era of Mass Incarceration

The U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than anywhere in the world. Inherent in our “mass incarceration” is the enormous over-representation of the poor and people of color in our overflowing prisons and jails. This occurs in the context of ramifications from police racial profiling, poorly funded public defender offices, a disturbing number of wrongful (including, capital) convictions, and the ineffectiveness of incarceration in deterring recidivism and rehabilitating offenders, but also the almost impossible requirements in our parole/probation systems (e.g., Alexander, 2010; Belknap et al., 2014; Stevenson, 2014). Most recently, research documents the school-to-prison pipeline, whereby youth of color are criminalized in and “pushed out” (more so than “dropping out”) of our schools (e.g., Flores, 2016; Morris, 2016). Professor Joanne Belknap participated in Temple University's twenty-year old program in June 2016, enrolling in the training for the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program (IOPEP), with a week-long training primarily in the men's Macomb Correctional Facility (prison) outside of Detroit, MI, where both the Temple University IOPEP staff and incarcerated men conducted the training. The key component of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program ( is that incarcerated prisoners (“inside”) and university undergraduate (“outside”) students take a college class together in a prison (as most prisons will not allow inmates to travel to campus to take a class). Using the IOPEP model, Professor Belknap taught the first CU Boulder class in a prison in Spring 2017, and it was in the Denver Women's Correctional Facility. Similar to others IOPEP classes across the U.S. and some other countries, the class broke down a lot of stereotypes about who prisoners are and aren’t, and who CU students and professors are and aren’t. Most powerfully, “inside” students gained an often-new view of themselves that typically provides them with remarkable pride, hope, and resilience. Outside students were provided with unprecedented personal insights into prisons, education, and reform. The current funding will be to conduct the next CU-IOPEP, this time in the Colorado Correctional Center (Camp George West), in Golden, CO ( Fifteen to 16 CU undergraduate ("outside") students will have a 3-hour class once a week for Spring semester 2018 that will be on "Social Justice" in this prison.

This is a private program by request only, or for a specific audience or group.


In Colorado

  • Golden

Program Partners

Supporting This Program

  • CU Boulder Continuing Education
  • CU Boulder Department of Ethnic Studies
  • Colorado Correctional Center (Camp George West), in Golden, CO (

Sponsoring Units

Arts & Sciences, College of

  • Ethnic Studies, Department of

Program Contact

Joanne Belknap
Professor of Ethnic Studies

Program Categories


  • Diversity
  • Education (Adult)
  • Govt./Law/Public Policy
  • Health Care/Human Services
  • Psychology
  • Reading and Writing
  • Social Sciences

Program Types:

  • Classroom Instruction
  • Community Development


  • Adult Learners
  • Minority Group(s)
  • Socio-Economic Disadvantaged