By Adam Tamburin
On her way to one of her first college classes this August, Laney Overton walked past towering coils of barbed wire and stepped through a metal detector.
A guard ran gloved hands up and down the 18-year-old Lipscomb University freshman’s arms and legs.
When she was finally escorted to her classroom, along with two fellow Lipscomb students, they sat quietly, waiting to meet their other classmates: more than a dozen inmates at the Tennessee Prison for Women.
For several minutes, “what ifs” raced through their minds.
“Walking into the classroom, you’re very nervous about what’s going to happen because you see crazy things on TV,” Overton said.
When the inmates started filtering in, Overton’s uneasiness slipped away.
The prisoners greeted the undergrads like old friends, cradling them in hugs and passing out peppermint candies.
See a full interactive highlighting videos and photos from Inmate Classmates: Behind bars, lessons in life.
“They’re just so caring and they’re so kind that it’s almost overwhelming,” Overton said. “I told my friends back in my dorm room that some of the women at TPW have been nicer than anyone I’ve ever met on the Lipscomb campus so far.”
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(First published by The Tennessean and excerpted here by permission)