Odyssey Beyond Bars teaches credit-bearing and noncredit UW-Madison courses to students incarcerated in Wisconsin prisons.
Our program was created to help address the problem of mass incarceration in Wisconsin by giving students in prison the academic and professional opportunities they need to succeed when they re-enter our communities.
"I sit in Oakhill prison, look back, shake my head and think, 'Why? Where did I go wrong?' But I smile looking into the future. . . This class has already opened my eyes to a better life for myself."Odyssey Beyond Bars student
Prison education is worth the investment. People who complete college coursework while incarcerated are more likely to be self-sufficient upon re-entry and less likely to return to prison. Explore the resources below to learn more.
Supporting Odyssey Beyond Bars
You can support Odyssey Beyond Bars by visiting our Support Odyssey page or by clicking the button below and donating directly to the Odyssey Beyond Bars Fund. All donations are tax deductible. For questions, please contact Jenny Pressman, Director of Development and Community Partnerships, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Odyssey Beyond Bars in the news
The University of Wisconsin– Madison’s Odyssey Beyond Bars Program received a $300,000 grant from the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation to teach college courses in Wisconsin prisons.May 19, 2021
Spurred by the national focus on racial justice and socioeconomic disparities revealed by the pandemic, the country’s higher education institutions and philanthropists are ramping up efforts to serve students currently or formerly in prison.May 19, 2021
With the Story Exchange, we wanted to create a virtual space where folks could share short stories about their relationship with writing, in the hope that these stories would inspire others to recognize their labor …May 18, 2021
Thompson Announces Statewide UW System Prison Education Initiative By Rich Kremer Published: Monday, December 7, 2020, 1:00pm SHARE: ListenDownload University of Wisconsin System Interim President Tommy Thompson says he wants to transform one of …February 16, 2021
Wisconsin is making progress to help more inmates get college educations – ‘which can completely redefine a life’
By Devi Shastri Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Michael Backman calls his wife on the day he was released from prison. Backman was a student in the UW Odyssey Beyond Bars program, one of several prison education …December 24, 2020
“My ultimate goal — but that’s in a year or two or three years — is to have one prison turn into an educational institution,” Thompson said. “And instead of having a swinging door coming in and going …December 7, 2020
Odyssey Beyond Bars provides opportunities for personal transformation and empowerment through prison education
“The desire for this kind of material is very strong and it has been a great match. Many of the things that have made Odyssey successful in the community – that engagement, that wraparound approach …October 18, 2020
Last fall we were so excited to offer the first credit-bearing course in a Wisconsin prison in over 100 years. (This Isthmus article from February 2020 describes the fall program and its moving December graduation ceremony at Oakhill …September 30, 2020
“[Odyssey Beyond Bars] provokes something in you that makes you want to dig into who you are and question who you are,” says Lewis. “It has given me an opportunity to examine my experiences; it …February 16, 2020
Prison education in the Midwest
UW-Madison joins a growing number of universities leading prison education programs in neighboring states, including Illinois.
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Odyssey Beyond Bars is a proud founding member of the UW Coalition for Higher Education in Prison (UW CHEP). UW CHEP was established in 2020 as a UW-based collective of programs and individuals who have come together in pursuit of a common mission: the advancement of higher education in Wisconsin’s prisons.
Sign up to learn more about the UW Coalition for Higher Education in Prison (UW CHEP)