Lac du Flambeau is helping offer college courses to inmates in Vilas County Jail.
Lac du Flambeau Education and Workforce Development Director Joni Theobald says the program will be open to tribal and nontribal inmates.
She says it’s an effort to help inmates, who may lack higher education or workforce skills, to move forward.
“We see those correlations, of lack of college or even a lack of high school completion. How can we help them make productive use, or start introducing that reintegration process?
The Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College is providing the instruction, funded by the Lac du Flambeau tribe. The college already offers courses in the Ashland, Bayfield and Sawyer County jails.
Theobald says teaching in a jail does present some unique challenges. The courses are gender-specific, with separate sessions offered for men and women. And organizers have set it up so that those whose sentences end in the middle of their instruction…can finish the course at the Lac du Flambeau campus.
“So we try to make it seamless, where it’s not just set on the length of sentence or the length of time at Vilas [County Jail], so that it can be fluid and part of that re-entry program.”
Lac du Flambeau declared a state of emergency last year in response to high levels of drugs and crime on the reservation. Theobald says this is one way of addressing the underlying causes.
“How do we now assist our community members, tribal and nontribal, whether it’s addressing addictions, addressing their own, being productive and just providing positive supports along the way, to whatever goals they have set.”
At first the program will offer just one course that focuses on skill-building for higher-education…that will include study skills, essay writing and time management strategies. But there are possibilities of expanding course offerings.