"Spurring innovation, improving practice"

Learning Exchange Students

 

Todd Beharry
Course of Study: Humanities and Justice Studies. Minors in English and Philosophy.
Year of Study: Senior

I learned the true meaning and importance of the P2CP program when I engaged in my first learning exchange with students from Otisville. I joined to become a part of a successful transition that enables incarcerated students to attend college and succeed. Before my first visit, I heard many negative misconceptions about incarcerated students. However, when I sat in the classroom and waited for the Otisville students’ arrival, I remained deeply committed to my optimism and the value of education. Throughout the learning exchange, I was amazed to see how Otisville students engaged in meaningful discourses with my peers and Professor Dreisinger. I sat in a classroom filled with intellectuals, an identical setting to my daily classroom lectures at John Jay. We reviewed literature readings and applied its philosophical, historical, sociological and literature meanings to current events. Overall, my learning exchange experience was exhilarating but when it was time to depart from Otisville, walking out of the doors of the prison made me realize that these incarcerated intellectuals were secluded in a setting that is virtually unknown to a privileged society. There are intellectual individuals that possess the same qualities as university students, but are not recognized because they are cast away from society. My experience has given me a sense of confidence in providing Otisville students the social support to make positive changes within the community and to guide them in their transition from Prison to college.

Joseph DeLuca
Couse of Study: BA/MA Forensic Psychology
Year of Study: Junior

I chose to become involved in the P2CP program because of my interest in working with incarcerated individuals. Studying incarceration at John Jay, especially its psychological effects and the reintegration process into society, was always of interest to me and something I quickly became passionate about. P2CP has allowed me to work closely with these individuals and to help them earn college credits. It has given me the opportunity to bring some normalcy into their lives, preparing them for reentry into society and promoting intellectual stimulation in a classroom setting.  The first visit was pretty powerful and comfortable. The first man that sat next to me immediately started a conversation and it flowed really easily. We talked about the changing weather, the readings, and his academic interests. The class discussions were equally interesting. It was great to engage in the readings and hear everyone’s perspective on the work. It wasn’t prison. It was class.  Even though half of the group would be going home after class and half of the group would be staying behind the prison walls, the human connection didn’t change.

Taniya Dewan
Course of Study: International Criminal Justice with a Minor in Computer Science
Year of Study: Senior

I joined the P2CP program because it was such a unique opportunity and exposure. Education and morality are the best transformative tools on humane grounds. I knew that our active participation would help create a positive influence for those incarcerated which would further help in reintegrating them back into the community as law abiding citizens. Knowing that it is more costly to keep a person in prison than placing him/ her on probation or community service inspired me to spread awareness. I want to help to bring about change. I also want to serve as a liaison between the correctional facility and the community by opening channels of communication and creating positive interaction between them. Lastly, I wanted to prove the underlying importance of education as a reform system. I’ve had an amazing time thus far. Rather than the guys learning from me, I have learned from them. I recall waiting for the guys during the November learning exchange and as soon they entered the classroom, they started shouting out my name in excitement: “Taniya, Taniya did you do the readings?” I was overjoyed looking at their dedication, happiness and the value they had for learning. We were assigned group work and afterward, they gave me their own input of how they wish to dedicate their lives to help transform other lives and preventing others from committing the mistakes they believed they had committed. One said, “life teaches you a lot, mistakes often happen, you learn and once you learn, it is very important for the other side to also understand, give room for improvement and accept the transition rather reflect on the past.” His words had an impact on me and I certainly believe that one of our goals as citizens should be to respect, accept and work towards being a positive influence and there is nothing better than EDUCATION serving as that medium in attaining these goals.

Abby Lynn Mulay
Course of Study: Forensic Psychology
Year of Study: Upper Junior

As a forensic psychology major, I am interested in prison experiences and how they may relate to successful re-entry. There are not many programs that allow undergraduate students the opportunity to volunteer in a correctional institution, so when I read an article about the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program in the John Jay Sentinel, I immediately emailed Professor Dreisinger to learn more.  When you walk into the facility’s classroom, you are immediately struck by the fact that it is just that: a classroom, and for three hours, you forget you are behind the walls of a correctional institution. During our last trip, we were discussing the various socioeconomic factors that may increase an individual’s likelihood of future incarceration. As I listened to the stories of the inside students, I heard a room full of men that wanted to use their own experiences to better the lives of others upon release. At that point, I realized that there is humanity in such an unnatural setting. These men have a clear direction, a determined purpose, and I hope that they see us as a representation of their possible future – they too will be at John Jay, living and learning in a community dedicated to issues of justice. The only difference between us and the Otisville students are walls – it is not the reading material that I learn from, although it is profound – it is the men’s perseverance and empowerment in the face of these walls that remains with me when I leave the facility.

Alex Oppenheimer
Course of Study: Criminal Justice
Year of Study: Senior

My experience in the P2CP program has been better then great. I have learned a lot more from the inside guys then I thought I would. They are exactly like we are in that they want to learn as much as possible and they want to make their lives useful like we do. The class is more interactive then any of my other classes at John Jay. They are very intelligent and great to be in a classroom with. During the first visit, we were put into groups with the inmates and argued theories about the one of the stories. At first, I was nervous about putting in my ideas but after a minute, I felt like I could say anything in the group without sounding dumb or insensitive. After that, I knew this would be a great program. I enjoy going to the prison and look forward to the monthly exchanges.

Ana Paredes
Course of Study: BA/MA Forensic Psychology with a Minor in Political Science
Year of Study: Junior

I applied for the P2CP program because I am interested in the reintegration of criminals into our communities. Before having gone on a learning exchange, my sentiments towards inmates were radically different. Mainly, I applied to gain a thorough insight as well as to gain experience with inmates housed in the criminal justice system.  During the first learning exchange, I realized that inmates are also people wherein they have the same dreams and aspirations as anyone else. Sometimes, the inmates themselves are also victims to a vicious cycle and we must not forget that. The creation of the Prison-to-College Pipeline will hopefully allow for the incarcerated men to reintegrate into society without facing the same degree of difficulty as before.

Sabrina Ramseyburgos
Course of Study: Criminal Justice with a focus in Corrections
Year of Study: Senior year

My experience in the P2CP program, has been very eye opening. I chose to apply and join this program because of what it stands for, and the experience I can gain from it. From the first time upon entering the prison I was very nervous. No sooner that I entered, my whole mentality went from nerves to excitement to make a positive change in these prisoners lives. With programs such as P2CP they help these men socialize and better prepare them for the outside world, thus cutting down recidivism rates. It not only gives them guidance but, enhances their intelligence in many different ways. As a student it motivates me to not only better myself, but to continue to stay with in this field of reintegration. More prison facilities need programs like P2CP, to continue to gain active members into society that may end up becoming your neighbor. We need more success stories, less expected failure, and wasted money to house these prisoners instead of helping them stay out.