Associate Professor Stacey Wyland: Seizing Opportunities
Associate Professor Stacey Wyland is not a person to sit on the sidelines and let opportunity pass her by.
From her decision as a college student to major in criminal justice, to her enrolling in the Pennsylvania State Police Academy, to her involvement in the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program, she has seized the moment with enthusiasm and passion. Her students, her criminal justice curriculum, and Keystone as a whole has benefited.
In 2005, while serving as an assistant professor and working with Employment Opportunity and Training Center (EOTC) and Lackawanna County prison on a mentoring program for women, she received an e-mail out of the blue from Lori Pompa, a faculty member at Temple University. Professor Pompa described a training program for the Inside Out program and asked if Stacey was interested.
In her characteristically brave manner, she responded to the e-mail and agreed to a week of intense training in Philadelphia to learn first-hand how this program worked. It would turn out to be a transformative experience for her and one that she would bring to her criminal justice students at Keystone. Spring 2009 was the third year of Keystone’s participation in the Inside Out program, which is part of CJ 426: Selected Topics in Criminal Justice. Each spring, eight students are selected by Stacey and eight prisoners are chosen by Terry Fazio, the educational principal at State Correctional Institute Waymart.
The course begins with presentations to each group individually by Professor Wyland. After this initial orientation, the students travel each week to the prison and work with the prisoners on a project that they develop and implement together. Waymart Superintendent Joseph Nish attends classes at the beginning and end of the semester.
The students’ assignment is not to counsel inmates nor to discuss their criminal past. In fact, no one from the College ever knows the prisoners’ history. They are to talk about criminal justice topics, such as the criminal justice system as a whole, prison overcrowding, victims, and even the need or necessity for prisons. One recent project focused on the need to mentor at-risk children-how to reach them and prevent them from becoming prisoners themselves. Another project examined the lack of after-care for prisoners.
There aren’t many support services available for prisoners who serve their sentence and re-enter the community. At the end of the semester, students and prisoners present their projects and participate in a graduation, which is typically attended by Superintendent Nish; former Director of Public Safety for the City of Scranton and Keystone Professor, Ray Hayes; and Professors Marie Andreoli and Deb Belknap. Stacey says that all participants come away from the experience transformed.
Evaluations by the students at the end of the course indicate their perceptions of prisoners have changed: they are no longer stereotypes but human beings. Stacey wants her students to be compassionate members of the criminal justice community, and this experience makes them understand the complexity of prisoners, their often high intelligence and practical abilities.
Stacey also understands that many college students have limited exposure to the larger world; in many cases, the career path in criminal justice that they have chosen takes them to a world that is not like theirs. The Inside Out program helps them with this understanding.
Keystone is grateful to Stacey for the knowledge and practical application she offers her students through the Inside Out Prison Exchange.