All interaction with students should be serious and professional. Faculty should remain aware of the distinction between the classroom and the common areas of the prison where security and staff are also working. Outside the classroom, it is important to be aware of the expectations of the prison staff. Inside the classroom, however, faculty should engage students and present coursework as you would in any college class.
The success and continued functioning of our program depends on there being no suggestion of inappropriate relationships between our faculty and our students, whether prison staff or incarcerated students. Such relationships could undermine the safety and security at the prison and jeopardize the program. The DOC takes such relationships seriously, and so does PEP.
Policies to Remember
- Students should not receive gifts or loans of materials from professors.
- Conversations beyond the scope of the course should be avoided (this includes private interactions about a student’s case, or internal affairs of the institution).
- Written communication between must be limited to academic topics. Professors must (by regulation) turn over all correspondence via postal service to us, and we will deal with it appropriately.
- The professor must (required by regulations) report any matter that is a violation of the institution’s rules and regulations.
- The professor cannot do for one student what is not done for all.
- As a volunteer, the professor can never be on a student’s visiting list.
- Communication of any kind with students’ friends, relatives, and significant others is prohibited by the rules of the Missouri correctional system.
- Only course assignments may be given to the professor. All other materials, of any kind, must be refused. Do not accept personal letters or personal material from students. Do not accept messages in sealed envelopes. If you find that a student has given you inappropriate material without you realizing, immediately contact Jennifer Hudson, Maggie Garb, or Rob Henke and pass on the material in question.
- There can be no monetary exchanges of any kind. The professor only brings on site what is necessary for teaching.
- Regulations allow handshakes and prohibit “pats on the back” and hugs. Beyond a handshake, any physical contact with students is prohibited.
Need to communicate with students in between your course sessions? Please fill out a PEP Student Memo and leave it in the January Hall 108 “Delivery to MECC” mailbox before 11 a.m. if you want next day delivery.
Much of this will be covered during your VIC training session. We also encourage you to include language in your syllabus regarding the importance of maintaining professional communication within the classroom. Students know that the program cannot tolerate any discussion of sex, verbally or in writing, with faculty or staff.
We encourage you to include language in your syllabus regarding the importance of maintaining professional communication within the classroom.
This includes asking faculty to read sexually explicit material or attempts to submit “love letters.” Students are well aware of this policy, but faculty should also know that penalties are severe, including removal from the class or expulsion from the entire program.
In view of maintaining professional communication, DOC recommends that VICs address everyone at the prison in a formal manner, using last names only. This formality helps to establish a professional atmosphere and personal distance, which can be useful in a prison classroom where consequences for inappropriate behavior can be much more severe than on campus. Maintaining professional communication helps to protect our students from these consequences. At the same time, the wardens at the PEP campus recognize that first-name address in a classroom setting is not necessarily antithetical to the maintenance of a professional level of communication.
Therefore, you are not required to use last names in our classrooms, although you should use last names while referring to students in any other location inside the prison, especially in front of prison staff.
Can I use first names?
In most ways (and the most important ways) your PEP classroom setting should replicate the environment you create in your campus classes. It is crucial that you maintain professional communication with students, on campus and in the prison, and you may decide that the use of first names in the classroom is appropriate. Please restrict first-name communication to the classroom and avoid it in other prison spaces. You should also avoid talking about your students in prison spaces outside the classroom.
Make No Promises
Students may ask about the future of the college in prison program, including upcoming classes or extracurricular activities. It is important to make no promises about such details.
As university faculty, we are not able to influence prison policy in any way. Make no promises about prison transfers, releases, parole, or any other DOC-related issue.
Still have questions? Do not hesitate to contact us with further inquiries, no matter how small.