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Wisconsin Correctional Education 80 Years Ago
Date: May 03, 2017 08:46AM

Wisconsin Correctional Education 80 Years Ago

The Committee on Education of the American Prison Association was the predecessor to the Correctional Education Association. In October 1937, the Committee published the first issue of “Correctional Education,” a newsletter that gave an overview of education programs as they existed 80 years ago in federal institutions, 27 state correctional systems and the District of Columbia.

The following is the description of the education programs in the two Wisconsin institutions which existed at the time.

Thanks to the unofficial CEA historian, Jerry McGlone of CEA-Ohio, for making this document available.

Wisconsin State Reformatory, Green Bay

An attempt is made to reach every inmate through a comprehensive program of education which operates through a full time day as well as an evening schedule of classes, and includes also informal types of instruction such is conferences and correspondence courses. A liberal use is made of University of Wisconsin extension correspondence courses for the more capable and better educated inmates. The average inmate, however, has limited education, only about ten percent having completed high school, fifty percent having reached the seventh grade, and very few showing any vocational experience or training when received.

Vocational training is given in 32 training shops. Of 487 inmates, about 65 per cent are in attendance in school classes or are enrolled in university extension correspondence study courses. In addition to these formal courses about 350 cell-study and reading courses are being carried on in the institution. Approximately 120 boys on parole are continuing work started while they were in the reformatory. This institution, like the State Prison, receives an unusually high degree of co-operation from the State University and the State Library Commission. The program is headed by a full-time Director of Education.

Wisconsin State Prison, Waupun

Prior to the fall of 1932 the educational program in this institution was centered about the extension courses offered by the University of Wisconsin and supervised by Mr. Chester Allen, Director of Field Organization of the University Extension Division. These courses grew in popularity, until a record of 450 courses was attained during one year. In 1932 a large shop building became vacant when an industry was abolished because of the passage of the Hawes-Cooper Act, and the building was converted into quarters for a full-time school under the supervision of a trained Director of Education. This school supplements the original program and does not replace it.

The full-time school provides instruction comparable to that found in the public elementary schools of the state in the first eight grades. In some branches there is provision for instruction on higher levels. Except for a few men in the lower grades, attendance is voluntary. The teachers are inmates, but they are carefully selected and are given a training course by the Director of Education.

The full-time school is in session five days a week from eight a.m. to twelve noon and from one to four-thirty-five p.m. throughout the entire year. The average daily attendance is between 250 and 300 men from a resident population of about 1,300 men. Those who enroll are expected to remain in the school for six months or more. Whenever possible, a student is given an opportunity to put into practical use what he has learned in the school. For example, members of the shop mathematics class are apprenticed to the machine shop half of the school day until they have advanced far enough, when they are employed in the machine shop the full day.

A second important branch of the educational program is the cell-study work. This consists of correspondence courses corrected in the institution. Approximately twenty-five different courses are available and about 200 men are enrolled on a voluntary basis.
A third educational activity is the reading course work, in which about 800 men are enrolled. The reading is in more than a hundred different fields, and the books and reading courses are obtained from the Wisconsin Free Travelling Library Commission, the libraries of the University of Wisconsin, and the local libraries. Those who enroll in the reading courses are required to prepare written reports on the material issued to them.

A fourth branch of the educational program is the work done through the Extension Division of the University· of Wisconsin. The number enrolled has decreased somewhat since the establishment of the full-time school, but more than 70 men are taking university courses.

The educational work in this institution has had particular significance for years because of the unusual amount of assistance which it receives from the State University and the State Library Commission. Prisoners in the Wisconsin institutions are given the same services and privileges by these two state agencies as are extended to free citizens. Warden Oscar Lee, a former president of the American Prison Association, was engaged in educational work before becoming warden.

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