The University of Wisconsin’s Odyssey Beyond Bars Program, a program that aims to help educate students incarcerated in Wisconsin prisons, received the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Eisenberg Award.

The Eisenberg Award, named after former Dean of Marquette University, Howard B. Eisenberg, is handed out annually by the Wisconsin State Public Defender Board to recognize groups who have impacted the “rights of our poorest citizens and/or the criminal justice system.”

“The Odyssey Beyond Bars program is giving those incarcerated a chance to expand their minds and explore their opportunities once they return to their communities,” Public Defender Board Chair James Brennan said in a press release. “That’s critical to their success going forward, and we applaud these efforts.”

Beyond Bars Scholarship Fund to aid incarcerated studentsThe Mary K. Rouse & Roger P. Bruesewitz Beyond Bars Scholarship Fund will provide financial support to students in pursuit Read…

Odyssey Beyond Bars helps incarcerated students improve their lives through education. In the program, students can take both credit and non-credit bearing courses.

A 2014 study by the Rand Corporation found inmates involved in prison education programs had a 43% lower chance of going back to prison following release and a 13% higher chance of getting a job after prison.

Many individuals use the program as a first step toward achieving a college degree or to build a foundation for success after they exit the prison system, according to the program’s website. Odyssey Beyond Bars has a significant impact on incarcerated students’ future success. 

UW Odyssey Beyond Bars project offered first opportunity for prisoners to earn college credits in Wisconsin in 100 yearsUniversity of Wisconsin Odyssey Project successfully offered face-to-face credit-bearing courses inside Oakhill Correctional Facility for the first time in 100 Read…

“This award is a great honor for our program and a testament to the vast potential of students in prison,” Odyssey Beyond Bars Director Peter Moreno said in a press release. “Many of our students are hungry for a chance to reframe their futures, and it is a joy to see them succeed.”

In an email statement to The Badger Herald, Moreno said many students in the program have gone on to take college degree programs. Moreno estimates 60 students have taken credit-bearing courses through Odyssey Beyond Bars and said the program could enroll up to 120 students a year if the program’s expansion project goes well. 

Moreno said Odyssey Beyond Bars is currently helping the UW System develop more educational pathways for students in prison and hopes to offer certificate and degree programs in the future.

“As students progress through our humanities-based courses, they develop their voice and often a better sense of who they are and what they want from their education,” Moreno said. 

This story was updated at 6:40 p.m. on Nov. 9 to reflect the correct name of the program, which was previously stated as “Odyssey Behind Bars” and remove incorrect statements from a source within the organization who was wrongly identified within their role at the organization.

More statements from the press release were added to the story as well as a statement from Peter Moreno.