Essays From Inside: David Spencer

Sociology is about people. This is by far the most important discovery I made during my time in Inside-Out.

Essays From Inside

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James Anderson, Benjamin Hall, David Spencer, and Doug Sanders were students in a Crime, Justice, and Public Policy course taught by Oregon State University sociology professor Michelle Inderbitzin at Oregon State Penitentiary.

There are over 30 theories of causation of crime in classics of criminology. At first I thought that I should look for the one “right” theory. But as the class progressed I found that different people arrive at deviance through a many varied paths.

Emile Durkheim explains that “crime is normal because a society exempt from it is utterly impossible. Crime… consists of an act that offends very strong collective sentiments.” From this working definition of crime/deviance we all realize that even criminology seeks to aid us to understand all people not just the “criminals” among us.

The experience of Inside-Out shows the commonality that we as people share. It blurs the line created by socialization of “us” and “them.”

This is so important because when we can identify with people, when we can stand in their shoes, we can no longer dismiss them as “the other” and go along claiming indifference.

Still, identifying with the actions of others does not mean we condone crime. What it does mean is that we can separate the person from the problem. By doing so, we realize that these are problems that we can tackle not people we need to ostracize.

The Inside-Out program is a rare opportunity to see the world in a broader perspective when in a very restrictive environment.

Knowing that there is hope, that people care and that a problem that felt yours alone is one shared by many can be comforting.

The several theories that are presented allow all of us tools with which we can better interact with the world around us. These are invaluable, as is the Inside-Out program. For while the class may last for 10 weeks, the lessons last a lifetime.