UW CHEP director’s letter – March, 2022

Odyssey Beyond Bars students Billy, Danny, and Mark from fall 2021

UW System has received a transformative $5.6 million grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to establish degree and certificate programs in state prisons, with the goal of preparing more students for professional success when they leave prison. The grant project will build on the success that Odyssey Beyond Bars and other UW programs have had in empowering students to begin their academic journeys. Students will soon be able to continue that journey while still in prison, and the credentials they earn will fuel their pursuit of a better life.

Robert, a student from our fall 2021 course at Oakhill Correctional who recently returned to his family after decades in prison, characterized the potential impact of the WEDC grant in simple terms: “Education in prison is a game-changer. I did 38 years. I came out, and in two weeks, I’m a productive citizen. I am paying taxes, rent, bills and buying food and adding to the economy, as well as helping other returning individuals.”

Meanwhile, Odyssey Beyond Bars has expanded to three new prisons as planned, working with faculty from other UW universities and extending college jump-start classes to more students. We are thrilled to add Jennifer Fandel to our teaching team, as well as graduate student teaching fellows Ivan Babanovski and Vincent Ogoti. Read more about our expansion efforts.

The Department of Corrections is a key partner in our efforts and a co-recipient of the WEDC grant. In a time of political polarization and mistrust, DOC and the UW are demonstrating to the state that cooperation with nontraditional partners is still possible, and that the potential benefits of finding common ground are endless.

Peter Moreno

Director, Odyssey Beyond Bars
Cofounder, UW Coalition for Higher Education in Prison