Join me in supporting the Ohio Prison Education Exchange Project.
Although my giving page is no longer active, you can still donate. If you would like to provide any additional support, please do so here.
Hello! I am Sophia Matts, a senior graduating with a BS in Environmental Public Health and a minor in Modern Greek. In my time at Ohio State, I have been able to explore my interests, from conducting scientific research to embracing my ethnic heritage through the Modern Greek program. Most importantly, majoring in Public Health, I’ve pursued coursework focused on the social and medical vulnerability of underserved populations, inspiring me to generate positive change with what I have learned. The incarcerated population is one of these vulnerable, underserved populations. It is rapidly expanding and largely overlooked in the United States, and prisoners have little ability to advocate for themselves. With extremely high COVID-19 infection rates in prisons this summer, I was motivated to join a team that monitors potential outbreaks in Ohio correctional facilities, hoping to mitigate spread within these institutions.
Our understanding of an epidemic is often linked to infectious diseases, but it can be applied to social systems as well. In his book, The Plague of Prisons, Ernest Drucker explains mass incarceration through the lens of an epidemiologist – comparing imprisonment to a chronic, communicable disease. Mass incarceration is a public health issue that has reached epidemic proportions. We can recognize the parallels between the risk factors for mass incarceration and COVID-19, both disproportionately harming low-income, non-white communities. Moreover, the negative effects of incarceration are not limited to one’s sentence but are lifelong and intergenerational, creating an almost inescapable cycle.
The “revolving prison door” is often explained by the inability of formerly incarcerated people to effectively re-enter society due to the immense stigma and other pressures. In Ohio, the rate of recidivism is roughly 30%. Amongst the most effective interventions to address this problem has been providing education to prisoners. Ohio State has a course dedicated to improving the education experience in prisons through the Ohio Prison Education Exchange Project. This class connects Ohio State students with students in Ohio correctional facilities to learn together and create a dialogue around criminal and social justice. When students are able to connect on an individual level, we can acknowledge, empathize with and learn from each other – which is crucial for generating lasting, effective solutions.
The Ohio Prison Education Exchange Project is an experience that has immense impact on both the students at Ohio State and those in the correctional facilities with whom they are partnered. Your donation will help to:
- Increase the number and range of Inside-Out Prison Exchange courses offered through Ohio State.
- Develop a regional collaboration with other central Ohio colleges and universities to expand programming and degree-completion pathways for incarcerated students and returned citizens.
- Establish the first national college-in-prison project based primarily on the collaborative pedagogies of Inside-Out courses.
Please consider donating to support the program and its important work. You can read more about the program by following the links below.
Innovation in the Classroom and Beyond: The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program
Inside-Out Looks to Break Down Cell Walls
Drucker, Ernest M. A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America. New York: New Press, 2013.
Becker, Stacy, and Lindsey Alexander. Understanding the Impacts of Incarceration on Health. PDF. ReThink Health, March 2016.
Virginia Department of Corrections. State Recidivism Comparison. PDF. December 2018.