UW Odyssey Beyond Bars program receives grant to teach college courses in Wisconsin prisons


The University of Wisconsin-Madison Odyssey Project received a $ 300,000 grant from the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation to continue teaching college courses to incarcerated people in Wisconsin across the Odyssey Beyond Bars program.

photo by Noble Wray
Noble Wray, retired Madison police chief and Rennebohm board member

Funding of $ 100,000 over the next three years will support a pilot project that will offer introductory college courses in English to incarcerated students interested in post-secondary education but not yet enrolled in an award program. credentials. The project will also explore the possibility of offering introductory courses similar to mathematics.

“As someone who has worked in the Wisconsin criminal justice system for 37 years, I think Odyssey Beyond Bars’s early results in providing an academic ‘kick start’ to incarcerated students have been impressive,” said the chief of staff. Madison’s retired police Noble Wray, who sits on Rennebohm’s board of directors. “In my opinion, the news that they will be able to scale up this innovative reintegration initiative means that more incarcerated individuals may have a better chance of success upon their return to society. “

Odyssey Beyond Bars began teaching non-credit enrichment courses to students in Wisconsin prisons in 2015, and in 2019 taught the first UW-Madison credited course in a prison in 100 years. The program receives 110 incarcerated students annually: 30 credited students at Oakhill Correctional Facility in Oregon and 80 uncredited students at the Wisconsin Resource Center in Winnebago.

photo by Peter Moreno
Peter Moreno, director of Odyssey Beyond Bars

“Studies show that people who finish college while in prison are more likely to be independent when they return and less likely to return to prison,” says Peter Moreno, director of Odyssey Beyond Bars. “The communication skills that students develop in Odyssey Beyond Bars prepare them for success in many post-secondary programs, including vocational programs. “

Odyssey Beyond Bars was born out of Project UW Odyssey, a groundbreaking and nationally recognized college start-up program, now in its 18th year of empowering adults in the Madison area to break cycles of generational poverty through l ‘access to education.

Already part of the UW System Prison Education initiative, Odyssey Beyond Bars will work with UW System and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections to create and evaluate the effectiveness of their college curriculum.

Learn more about the UW Odyssey Project and Odyssey Beyond Bars.

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