Odyssey Beyond Bars expands throughout the state

Danny with his English 100 course reader

“Look around. You may not know each other yet, and this situation will test your comfortability, but you’ll all discover a community within yourselves.”

— from “A letter to next year’s class,” by Danny, Odyssey Beyond Bars student in English 100 at Oakhill, fall 2021

By leaps and bounds. That’s the best way to characterize the growth of Odyssey Beyond Bars throughout the state. Starting this spring, we are building on our success at Oakhill Correctional near Madison and expanding into three new prisons: Racine Correctional in Sturtevant (RCI), Green Bay Correctional (GBCI), and Columbia Correctional in Portage (CCI).

We are most excited that our expansion is reaching additional students in different and challenging environments, and often earlier in their term of incarceration. All of our new sites are medium- and maximum-security facilities, where our students often serve longer sentences before returning home but also have a broader opportunity to continue their education while in prison. Danny from our fall 2021 class at Oakhill encourages new students: “All your stories reflect your lives, yet your lives resemble each other’s struggles — just different sides of the same street. Use those struggles to create scribbles that form sentences and then you got a story to tell.”

Our leaps-and-bounds growth takes advantage of UW System’s statewide reach, bringing talented faculty from UW universities across the state into prisons in their regions. UW–Madison instructors and graduate student fellows are teaching courses near Madison at CCI and Oakhill. Meanwhile, Professor Dana Oswald of UW–Parkside is teaching at RCI, and UW–Green Bay Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Chuck Rybak is teaching at GBCI.  We thank our new instructors for expanding access to our courses, adding their energy and experience to our effort, and making our program better.

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