COLUMN: My idea of Thursday nights: Prison

Spencer Jenkins

What would you say if I told you I studied, bonded

and became friends with prisoners over the course of this semester?

Oh, and I volunteer driving to Nashville every Thursday evening in

order to do this.

I bet you think I’m crazy, along with my classmates

who study victimology once a week with incarcerated people at Lois

DeBerry Special Needs Facility.

I can’t lie; the first day of class apprehension

overwhelmed me. In my mind all I could think of was, “I’m about to

shake hands and take class with murderers, sex offenders and drug

dealers. What have I gotten myself into?”

But as the weeks have gone by, I’ve realized I got

myself into a once in a lifetime, eye-opening class that will

change me forever.

Every week we sit in a relatively large circle in

what is normally used as a visitation room for the incarcerated

men. We study the relationships between offenders and victims,

offenders and society and victims and society.

Along with countless other academic studies talked

about, we also share our own personal views with each other.

Breaking down walls and talking about our own

personal experiences didn’t take long either.

During one class session, two incarcerated men

admitted that they were in prison for murder, and you’d think that

every nerve in my body would’ve tensed. But I was shockingly

comfortable and open to what they had to say.

Every person in our class is human, despite what you

and the rest of society might think. However, don’t get the idea

that I’m condoning their crimes.

Even though some people in our class have committed

crimes that have given them life sentences, they are still people

with real feelings and lives.

You’d be surprised how much you could relate to

someone who murdered or victimized someone because even though they

committed crimes and live behind bars, they still live their

day-to-day lives with ups and downs just like us.

One day, one of the incarcerated men announced that

his mother had passed away. We couldn’t help but hurt for him,

because we all know what loss is like.

And like any classroom setting, there are mild

disagreements about certain ideas concerning the topic of

discussion, but in the end, we always respect and listen to one

another’s opinions.

Out of my years at WKU, this class has shown me the

most about life and that anything can happen. You could become a

victim when you least expect it, or you could get caught up being

an offender.

These men have also taught me to value my education

as well. They’ve said that Thursday nights are the highlights of

their weeks because they enjoy learning and taking a college


It makes you step back and realize that sometimes we

as college students can really take our education for granted.

It’s extremely hard conveying the feelings and

experiences I’ve received from taking this class because it’s so

unique. But if you want to take the most interesting class of your

life and it’s offered again, take it.