Teaching Points– Paul Draus Comments on “Ghettos and Prisons”

Professor Paul Draus (photo: Nate Mullen)

Editor’s Note: In today’s Teaching Points commentary, the third in our series, sociologist Paul Draus discusses the aims of the Inside- Out Program, of which his “Ghettos and Prisons” class is an iteration, and the formative place that drugs play in the world(s) the class examines.

For those not familiar with the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, courses are composed of fifteen ”outside” students from a college or university and fifteen incarcerated “inside” students.   All Inside-Out instructors are intensively trained in the methods and framework of the program, but individual instructors may adapt the course content to reflect their own interests or areas of training.  (For more information on the Inside-Out Program, see their website.)

My Inside-Out course is entitled “Ghettos & Prisons: Dynamics of Stigma and Segregation in Society.”   Although it does not focus specifically on drugs or drug use, the role of illicit drugs is of central importance in the history of urban segregation, when considered either as a cause or as an effect.  Perhaps more crucially, given the composition of the class, the illicit drug trade is a fundamental fact of life in the communities where most of the inside students resided before incarceration.

The following two examples, from reflection papers written by inside students, illustrate this point.  In the first case, “Man” describes how his own trajectory was influenced by drug use in his family and community.In the second sample, “Spoon” adopts a somewhat broader scope and discusses the role of drugs in his community on the West Side of Detroit.

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