The Marshall Project

What I Learned When I Googled My Students’ Crimes

“I wondered if I knew more of their history if I would still view them the same way.”

As I walked through the door of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York, I was directed toward a first-floor classroom. Instead of the lines of prisoners led by guards that I’d seen at a previous facility, the hallway was swarming with men in forest-green uniforms on their way to their classes. The scene reminded me of the time between periods in high school.

Life Inside Perspectives from those who work and live in the criminal justice system. Related Stories

The men didn’t seem bothered by a newcomer in their midst.

An organization called Rising Hope had been looking for someone with a master’s degree in theology to teach one of their college-level courses inside the prison system. Originally founded by a seminary, the program offers a curriculum on Christianity from a scholarly perspective.

I’d volunteered to teach a Friday-night class at Sing Sing on spirituality.

I stepped into the classroom, where a few men

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