Jorge Luis Borges

College student's philosophy program brings Plato and Buddha to Jessup prison

Donald McColl was ready to start his PowerPoint presentation on the questionable origin of some early Christian artworks, but the equipment was acting up. A student asked, "Does anyone have a paper clip?"

It was a joke. No one has a paper clip in prison.

This summer, a caravan of scholars and students has been traveling 65 miles from the rustic Chestertown campus of Washington College to the barbed-wire fortress of Jessup Correctional Institution to teach ethics to prisoners.

Thirty-two inmates, most serving life sentences, read Plato, Kierkegaard, Frederick Douglass and Buddha over the course of 15 classes, culminating in term papers, most of them written in...