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The first cohort of students incarcerated in Wisconsin graduated with bachelor's degrees

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

20 incarcerated people graduated in Wisconsin

It is great to see that people are not giving up their hopes of pursuing their dreams even while incarcerated. For the first time, a group of incarcerated students in the Waupun Corrections Institution graduated with bachelor's degrees last Tuesday. The program is offered by the Trinity International University, from where twenty incarcerated men received their diplomas in biblical studies while also earning a minor in psychology.

“All of our choices have led to this point, this day, this moment where we stand before you, no better than any man, but better men. Let us be a signal that those considered some of the worst of society can transform into some of the better of society.” - said August White, one of the graduates of the study program.

Trinity International University established the Waupun Correctional Institution as an accredited branch campus in 2017, and 55 inmates are currently enrolled in the program. It is free to enroll, with the university providing the curriculum and staff needed to successfully guide the inmates through the study program. The Wisconsin Inmate Education Association is a private foundation that pays for 100% of the tuition needed to fund the program.

Hope for expansion

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “at least 95% of the prisoners will be released back out into the community at some point” and according to the Prison Policy Initiative’s report, “more than half of formerly incarcerated individuals have just a high school diploma or GED, and another quarter has no high school credentials at all. Only 4% of formerly incarcerated people have college degrees." Studies show that people released from incarceration have better chances of securing employment depending on their level of education. Education is one of the key initiatives to reducing recidivism and it empowers people to be a productive part of their community.

In addition to the four-year course offered is in biblical studies, the correction department offers some two-year associate degree programs with technical college and individual courses with the Milwaukee Area Technical College and UW-Madison’s Odyssey Beyond Bars. The hope is to continue to expand the variety of courses through additional partnerships.

“We are heavily invested in educational opportunities as a way for the persons in our care to engage in some significant transformational change,” - said Kevin Carr, the secretary of Wisconsin Department of Corrections

Read Emily Hamer's whole article here:

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