Grad students go behind bars: 'It's a different world'

MONROE, Wash. - Some local criminology graduate students got a unique perspective on crime - from behind bars at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

The group, from Seattle University, went there for a criminal justice course in creating ways to implement restorative justice in the prison systems and throughout the community.

"It's very interesting. It's a different world," says Seattle University professor Madeline Lovell.

"This is the first time we've ever done a class like this," adds Jacqueline Helfgott, criminal justice professor at Seattle University.

While there, the students shared a classroom with murderers and other criminals.

On the final day of the course's eight-week session, prisoners and students engaged in mock presentations on how to help victims and criminals - and restore justice wherever it can be restored.

"I came away with a different perspective, and I've learned a lot about restorative justice," says graduate student Nichole Tucker.

"It's been really inspiring to see how well they get along together and how creative they can be together," says Lovell.

The idea turned out to be so creative and so practical that there is now talk they could become a reality in the prison system - all done with no books, but rather experiences from one another that will go far beyond their college days.

The students earn university credit for the course, and college officials hope to do the program again in the near future.

The inmates are also getting continuing education credits for their help with the program.