Muhlenberg Program Pairing College Students with the Incarcerated in Collegeville Changes Perspectives

two woman and one man at a table
Image via Joseph Scheller at The Morning Call.
Sen. Bob Casey (center) at the Muhlenberg roundtable where Collegeville's Inside/Out program was discussed.

As an undergrad, Muhlenberg student Rachel Liberty partook in a university program in which classwork included time with incarcerated men at SCI Phoenix, the Collegeville correctional institution formerly known as Graterford. It so changed her, she spoke on its merits to with Sen. Bob Casey at a funding roundtable. Jenny Roberts reported Liberty’s newfound advocacy in The Morning Call.

Liberty was understandably anxious her first day of the program. But she found participants to be “…some of the nicest people I’ve ever met; moreover, some of the most brilliant.”

She became such a proponent of the program that now, as a grad, she was asked to participate in a Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) roundtable discussion on incarceration.

Her passion helped Muhlenberg secure a $231,000 grant to not only continue it but expand it.

“I grew up in a generation where we thought of incarceration as mostly punitive,” Casey said. “And I think what a lot of us have begun to realize is we have to take the rehabilitation part of serving time a lot more seriously.”

With the help of federal funds, incarcerated people in corrections facilities that include Collegeville’s will be able to earn credits through Muhlenberg’s Inside/Out program for the first time.

The college staff and administration hope the opportunity sets incarcerated students up to continue pursuing higher education once they are released and, in turn, reduces the chance they will be incarcerated again.

More on the educational opportunities inside and outside SCI Phoenix is at The Morning Call.