I am the founder and director of the University of Missouri- Kansas City Philosophy in Prison Program.
The Department of Philosophy at UMKC and our Honors Society, Phi Sigma Tau, has created a philosophy-reading group at Lansing Correctional Facility in Leavenworth Kansas. The reading group is designed to engage prisoners in philosophical texts and great philosophical ideas, through reading and discussion with our students (and, at times, a professor mentor). UMKC provides the texts, and the students meet with the prisoners every other week to discuss a particular text. The group meets for an hour and a half to discuss the text in question. We are especially excited to include texts that have been written by great philosophers who were writing during incarceration or about incarceration, such as the dialogue between Socrates and Crito while Socrates is in prison in Athens.
The UMKC’s Philosophy department believes that this program will enrich the lives of all involved – UMKC students, the incarcerated prisoners, other members of the Kansas City community, etc. The UMKC Philosophy in Prison Program brings college students together with incarcerated prisoners in the sharing of perspectives behind prison walls. Two distinct groups intertwine through a dynamic in which participants have a chance to reconsider stereotypes and myths while examining their own minds in discussing literature of self-empowering philosophy.
Our hope with this program, along with an interesting teaching experience for the student, is that the prisoner or “insider” will receive some kind of relief from the sessions. Ideally, our goal will be to allow the prisoners an outlet to explore their minds in ways they probably were never showed before. Philosophy is a great way to find an opinion and a voice. Our department is very passionate about this project.