Through the Office of Service Learning and courses such as Punishment & Society, taught by Dr. Jill McCorkel, students can participate in a service-learning experience by volunteering as literacy tutors to inmates at The State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania's largest maximum security prison. Dr. McCorkel notes that each semester “without exception, all the students who have participated in the service learning course describe it as ‘transformative,’ ‘life changing,’ and ‘rewarding.’”
In her testimonial below, Kristina Wotton - one of Dr. McCorkel’s former students and now a Criminal Justice graduate (class of 2012) - shares how her participation in the Prison Literacy Program influenced her:
I volunteered as a tutor at Graterford in the Fall of my sophmore year and have been trying to go back ever since. My experience at Graterford has been paradigm shifting. I began the program with the presupposition that all inmates were violent, uneducated, and simply unwilling to be a productive part of society. Over the weeks, I realized that all of those preconceived notions were unfounded and false. The men in the Prison Literacy Program are respectful and hardworking; they want to turn their lives around and be better people and I am honored to have helped them on their way. The media and society have created this idea that all inmates are innately bad people who do not deserve to be part of the general public again.
My experience has helped me realize that it is possible for criminals to change into educated, respectful, and honest men who will one day be productive members of society. The Prison Literacy Program is an incredible program for both the inmates and the student tutors. The entire experience changed the way I think of the prison system and the people who are a part of it. It is an experience that I will carry with me into my career and the rest of my life.*
*originally published in the Spring 2011 edition of the Interactions newsletter
If you are interested in becoming a tutor at Graterford, contact Dr. Thomas Arvanites for more information.