On December 5, 2019, 8 Berkshire County Jail inmates completed the Williams College course: “Meditation and Modern American Life.” The Inside-Out Program is the product of a close collaboration between the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office and Williams College allowing the opportunity for inmates to take college level courses with some of the world’s best college students and faculty. This class consisted of 8 inside students and 10 outside (Williams College) students. The course provided the students with the opportunity to meet and interact with individuals they might not otherwise interact or engage with. It was fascinating to witness the class evolve from introduction where no one knew what to expect, to engagement watching the labels fade and the students begin working together bringing new perspectives for all participants.
Professor Bernie Rhie taught and served as the inspirational leader for the college credit course. Assistant Deputy Superintendent Al Bianchi served as the liaison between the Sheriff’s Office and Williams College and helped facilitate the program. Students, both inside and out, provided inspirational offerings concerning the profound impact of the course on their lives, providing them with new ways of thinking, new tools for addressing stressful situations and new methods for controlling their response to unpleasant situations encountered in daily life.
Williams College President Maud Mandel and ADS Bianchi presented the students with certificates of course completion. Director of the Center for Learning in Action Paula Consolini and Vice President for Campus Life Stephen Klass were on hand to witness the final class. One of the inside students created the cake to celebrate the event.
This class serves as an example of what education can accomplish if given an equal opportunity to inspire growth and promote mindful change. Sheriff Bowler extends is gratitude to the Williams College administration, faculty and students for their continued support of this important endeavor.