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Keystone College students, Waymart inmates learning together

It was graduation day for students and inmates in Wayne County after teaming up on a program to learn what it's like on the inside.

WAYNE COUNTY, Pa. — On Wednesday, students from Keystone College sat alongside inmates at SCI Waymart in Wayne County as part of an international program called the Inside Out Prison Exchange.

Stacey Wyland Berlinski is an associate professor at Keystone and leads the program. Berlinski says it's designed to give inmates and college students a different perspective and enable them to learn more about each other.

"We talk about criminal justice, the system in and of itself. We talk about social justice issues, and we look at ways that we can improve the criminal justice systems."

Nine keystone students and 11 inmates spent the whole semester taking this class inside the prison. This ceremony marked the end of everything they've learned.

"There's many situations that the inside students are put through, and like us outside people, we don't really have and see that perspective. So being able to come in here and see their viewpoint on different things gives us the opportunity to make changes," said Madolyn Fernandes, a senior at Keystone College.

"Most of us will reenter society, and maybe it will reduce the stigma that we're all hardened criminals, and to let people know that we're able to show compassion and change is really important," said Josh, an inmate at SCI Waymart.

The Keystone students can freely leave the prison when this program is done and return to normal life. Prison officials hope these inmates can do the same with the tools to reenter society and change their lives.

"We at Waymart believe that any opportunity to give our offenders a greater understanding of how to function when they are the entrance is always a good thing, and this program did just that. It enabled them to interact with people from the outside on a weekly basis," said Michelle Lipko, principal of the SCI Waymart corrections school.

"A lot of hope for me getting out and reentering and also for what the corrections system will look like in the future," Josh added.

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