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Local Cooperation Champions the Cause of Financial Literacy
Date: March 16, 2010 12:12AM

Local Cooperation Champions the Cause of Financial Literacy

Sheboygan County's efforts to closely work with Lakeshore Technical College and the Consumer Credit Counseling Service has resulted in Sheriff Michael Helmke and his Department's partners receiving statewide and national recognition for "setting the bar" regarding adult inmate educational programming in county facilities. A number of state officials regularly express the opinion that the Sheboygan County program is the "gold standard" for such programs in Wisconsin.

The support (safety and security) and autonomy (trust) that Sharon Abel of Lakeshore Technical College and Lisa Anne Arneson of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service are granted by the entire Sheboygan County Corrections Division makes this endeavor to reach and teach the adult inmate population possible.

The successes of their joint effort have been significant. As of the mid-point of this current academic year alone, 107 inmates (incarcerated students) have been provided resources and direction concerning where to go, whom to contact, and what to ask regarding repairing bad credit and establishing and maintaining good credit. Educational assistance included access to user-friendly information; receipt of objective points of view; help with building vocabulary, reading related literature, filling out forms, writing formal letters; and lessons on self-advocacy.
 92 inmates received copies of their credit reports and each had individualized assistance with interpreting their credit history as well as assistance with setting goals aligned with the information gathered from the reports
 33 had child support issues and received literacy services specifically on that topic
 13 inmates had cases of identity theft identified; assistance and advice was provided on what steps to take to repair their credit and how to generally deal with the matter
 8 post-release inmates with no other viable options available to them received rental assistance
 4 have been accepted as residents in the Tee Box (transitional home)
 7 post-release individuals have continued to participate in personal/familial finance sessions with the same credit/housing counselor they originally met on-site at Sheboygan County Jail facilities
 4 inmates had family members who self-disclosed they came to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service for services based on their connections with incarcerated participants

The financial effect that the partnership has on each person who chooses to participate in financial/ economic literacy services has not been statistically quantified but is generally considered to be significant. The economic and social benefits on their families and our overall community are also very likely consequential.

Primary partners:
• Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department Corrections Division
• Lakeshore Technical College
• Consumer Credit Counseling Service

Supporting collaborators include but are not limited to:
• Eastern Shores Library System
• Family Resource Centers of Sheboygan County
• Sheboygan County Job Center
• The Lakeshore Technical College Foundation
• The Salvation Army
• Good News Jail & Prison Ministry
• The Tee Box
• Friends of the Mead Public Library
• Various volunteers and mentors from our local community

Financial/economic literacy has become a priority within Sheboygan County's adult inmate educational programming. Other counties could replicate this multi-agency effort to help prepare inmates for reentry into the greater community.

by: Sharon Abel, Lakeshore Technical College/Sheboygan County Detention Center

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