OBB students Billy, Danny and Mark sit at a table in a prison classroom and talk with with OBB director Peter Moreno in fall 2021
OBB students Billy, Danny and Mark sit at a table in a prison classroom and talk with with OBB director Peter Moreno in fall 2021
OBB program manager, Lauren Surovi and OBB student Billy

Odyssey Beyond Bars

OBB student Carl Lewis    OBB Student Jacob Raglin    OBB instructor Kevin Mullen

Odyssey Beyond Bars offers college jumpstart programs to students incarcerated in Wisconsin state prisons. We are part of the UW Odyssey Project, which for 19 years has empowered students living in poverty to overcome obstacles, find their voices and reframe their futures.

“This class has already opened my eyes to a better life for myself.” 

Our jumpstart programs combine noncredit and for-credit courses with wraparound supports that help our students succeed long-term, including tutoring, academic and financial aid advising, and an alumni support network.

Many program alumni use their Odyssey Beyond Bars experience as a first step toward a college degree and as a foundation for success when they leave prison and return to their communities.

Odyssey Beyond Bars won the 2021 Eisenberg Award from the Wisconsin State Public Defender.

Read more and check out our award acceptance video!

Supporting Odyssey Beyond Bars

Support Odyssey Beyond Bars by clicking the button below. All donations are tax deductible. For questions, please contact Jenny Pressman, Director of Development and Community Partnerships, at jenny.pressman@wisc.edu.


Get Involved

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Become a Student

Students at Oakhill share their writing with the class

“Odyssey Beyond Bars has given me an opportunity to examine my experiences; it provokes you to look at things in a different way and gives you the confidence to express yourself.”–Carl Lewis, OBB student

Odyssey Beyond Bars enrolls students in Wisconsin state prisons who are interested in college but not yet enrolled in a degree program. Occasionally, we enroll students who already have some college experience. 

Odyssey Beyond Bars students are admitted to UW-Madison as special students, not degree-seeking students.  We often help our students pursue admission to degree programs at UW-Madison and elsewhere.

In Fall 2021, we are offering English 100 at Oakhill Correctional Institution only.

In Spring 2022, we will offer English 100 at Oakhill and three other prisons–Green Bay Correctional Institution, Racine Correctional Institution, Columbia Correctional Institution. Additionally, we will offer Non-Violence and Social Change at Oakhill.

We do not operate in any county jails or federal prisons.

Milwaukee Area Technical College, Madison College and Moraine Park Technical College offer associate degree and certificate programs in certain Wisconsin state prisons. Interested students should ask the Education Director in their institution to learn which programs are available to them.

Become a Volunteer

“I can say with no qualms that tutoring with Odyssey Beyond Bars has been one of the best experiences I’ve had here at UW-Madison.”–Ivan Babanovski, PhD Candidate, English Department

We seek volunteer tutors with experience in writing and literacy skill development. Tutors must complete background checks and training, which OBB will provide in coordination with the Dept. of Corrections.

We also seek volunteers to assist with administrative work, fundraising and research. 

If you are interested in volunteering for OBB, please complete and submit this volunteer form.

If you are interested in volunteering for UW Odyssey Project community-based programs (including the Odyssey Course, Odyssey Junior, and Onward Odyssey), please fill out this form instead.

Thanks for your interest!

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Become an Instructor

OBB instructor, Kevin Mullen, applauding student in front of a classroom

“I have been teaching for a long time. I’ve taught in other countries and situations, and this class will always stand out. What I’ve been most impressed by is the students’ spirit.” –Kevin Mullen, OBB instructor

Odyssey Beyond Bars offers exciting introductory UW-Madison classes to students in prison, with credits that are easily transferable to many college degree programs. 

We are especially in need of English 100 instructors. Instructors must hold a master’s degree or higher and be approved to teach by the relevant UW-Madison department. We will provide training, remuneration and logistical support, including tutors, advising and any required course components. 

Download our FAQ to learn more and fill out this form to express interest. 

UW System Prison Education Initiative (UWPEI)

Odyssey Beyond Bars proudly co-leads the UW System Prison Education Initiative, a collaborative effort to advance higher education in prison through multiple UW universities statewide.  This initiative is working to develop UW certificate and degree programs for our students so they can earn college credentials and build work-ready skills before they return to their communities.  We applaud UW System for recognizing the immense potential of our students and the positive impacts they can make on the world around them when they have opportunities for transformation and success.

Check back for updates on our progress, and sign up below for our quarterly UW CHEP newsletter!

OBB student Billy

Join the UW Coalition for Higher Education in Prison mailing list

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 to advance higher education in Wisconsin’s prisons.

Sign up below to get quarterly UW CHEP updates.


Peter Moreno

Position title: OBB Director

Email: peter.moreno@wisc.edu

Phone: 608-262-4555

Kevin Mullen

Position title: Odyssey Project Co-Director and OBB Instructional Advisor

Email: kevin.mullen@wisc.edu

Phone: 608-890-3330

Lauren Surovi

Position title: OBB Academic Program Manager

Email: surovi@wisc.edu

Phone: 608-286-9144