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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
April 16, 2014
Canadian Excellence

Inside-Out Canada History

First envisioned by Paul Perry, a founding member of the first Inside-Out think tank and a lifer at Graterford Prison in Philadelphia, PA, the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program was launched by program director Lori Pompa in 1997 as a single Temple University course in a city jail. Paul’s belief: if people inside and outside of prison meet over a sustained period to study, collaborate, and analyze challenging social issues together, they will grow as individuals, forge new ways to build community, and develop insightful approaches to social transformation that are sorely needed. 

For a good introduction to the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program’s history, see:

The first instructor training was held in 2004. Today more than 400 instructors have been trained, more than 400 courses have been offered, and more than 10,000 inside and outside students have taken at least one Inside-Out course, across 25 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. 

To learn more about the U.S Inside-Out Prison Exchange program, visit:

Dr. Simone Davis, a professor of English and an Inside-Out instructor since 2005, brought the concept of Inside-Out to Canada in 2009. Simone reached out to faculty, community organizations and potential administrative partners. Happily, she sought out Dr. Shoshana Pollack of the Faculty of Social Work (FSW), who took the training in the summer of 2011. With the key participation of correctional educator Peter Stuart, Shoshana spearheaded a partnership between Wilfrid Laurier University's Faculty of Social Work and Grand Valley Institution for Women (GVI), one that would not have been possible without the significant commitments to the project made by both institutions.

In the fall of 2011 the Faculty of Social Work offered the first Inside-Out course at Grand Valley Institution for Women. The very first class was a core FSW course entitled Diversity, Marginalization and Oppression. Ten “outside” FSW students and seven “inside” students (at GVI) met weekly for a semester in a classroom at GVI. 

Inside and outside alumni from this course became the founding members of the Walls to Bridges Collective, an alumni think tank that meets twice monthly at Grand Valley, facilitates instructor trainings, offers public education workshops at the prison and in the community, and implements participatory action research projects.

In the summer of 2012, thanks to funding extended by the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation, Wilfrid Laurier's Faculty of Social Work was able to establish a home-base for the Inside-Out Canada program. The first Canadian Inside-Out instructor training was held in summer 2013. At this writing there are 34 trained instructors across Canada, and to date nine courses have run or are running.