Enhancing Transformative and Re-integrative Possibilities Through University Students Studying Alongside Incarcerated Men/Women Behind Prison Walls

Marietta Martinovic

RMIT University
Senior Lecturer

Dr Marietta Martinovic (BA, Sir John Minogue Medal, MA, APA, PhD) is a Senior Lecturer in Justice and Legal studies at RMIT University in Melbourne in Australia. She has been leading the development and implementation of the first Australian Inside Out Prison Exchange program, which simultaneously engages RMIT students and prisoners in university-level education. She has also been leading two prison-based Think Tanks in which RMIT students and prisoners directly contribute to Corrections Victoria’s policy-making processes related to reducing further offending and improving people’s quality of life both within and outside of prison. On the basis of teaching in prisons Marietta has received two RMIT Teaching Excellence Awards in 2017 - Deputy Vice Chancellor Education's Award for Good Teaching and Educational Partnerships and Collaborations with Other Organisations. Her key research interests are electronic monitoring, incarceration and teaching in prisons.

The Inside Out Prison Exchange Program has been delivered at two prisons in Victoria, Australia - Dame Phyllis Frost Centre and Marngoneet Correctional Centre since 2015. As part of this program at each prison, 15 incarcerated individuals together with 15 RMIT university students study 'Comparative Criminal Justice Systems.' All students are required to learn and critique complex criminal justice material and undertake university standard assessments. Inside Out is an opportunity for people inside prisons to discuss their ‘lived’ criminal justice-related experiences with future criminal justice practitioners, providing personal insights into the operation and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. The evaluation of the program has shown that being given such a ‘voice’ shows incarcerated people that their crime need not define them, and hence enhances their transformative and re-integrative possibilities. They are enabled to imagine a future for themselves which encompasses education and/or employment opportunities, which they had not previously considered or thought that it was unachievable/inaccessible to them. At the same time, Inside Out is an opportunity for university students to reconsider what they have come to know about crime and justice in their textbooks, and understand the ‘human’ element of incarceration before launching into the criminal-justice related careers. Hence, university graduates are provided with a transformative experience, underpinned by humanity and ethics, which guides their future decision making in the criminal justice sphere.