The Lac du Flambeau Tribe is pleased to announce a joint collaboration between the Tribe’s Gikendaasowin Education and Workforce Development Department, the Vilas County Sheriff’s Department and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College to provide introductory college courses to individuals incarcerated in the Vilas County Jail.
The Oshki Bimaadiziiwin (“New Life” in Ojibwe) program will allow both Tribal and non-Tribal Members the opportunity to receive classroom instruction and obtain credits that can be applied towards a college degree. The jail, located in Eagle River, serves Tribal Members and Descendants who are incarcerated.
The program, which held its first class on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, is voluntary and open to both female and male participants. “This is an incredible step in empowering Tribal Members and others as they transition back into our communities. The program provides hope where there may not have previously been any,” said Joni Theobald, Director of the Tribe’s Gikendaasowin Education and Workforce Development. “We have partners who were willing to work together to make this happen,” added Theobald. The Lac du Flambeau Tribe will offer ongoing logistical support to the program as part of the Tribe’s commitment. The Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College currently operates similar programs at the Ashland, Bayfield and Sawyer County Jails, near the college’s campus and satellite locations.
Vilas County Sheriff Joe Fath and Jail Administrator Bill Weis were actively involved in making the initiative a reality. “I think this is a great opportunity to work with LCO College and the Lac du Flambeau Tribe. It will broaden the opportunities for people within our facility to better their lives and become assets to the community,” said Sheriff Fath. The sheriff’s department and jail worked extensively with the Tribe and LCO College to schedule inmate class time, and provides the space and internet connectivity for the program.
Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College Academic Dean Beth Paap says the college has had incredible success with the program at other facilities, and looks to do the same at the Vilas County Jail. “Our mission is to offer college courses to people who, for whatever reason, find themselves incarcerated. It’s an opportunity to give them a chance at either beginning their education at the post-secondary level or continuing their education,” said Ms. Paap. Her experience has shown that a number of students who have started their education within the jail have continued pursuit of a degree once they are released. Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, with a campus in Lac du Flambeau, provides the instructor and curriculum. The Tribe provides coordination and logistical support, and the Vilas County Jail offers the space and time. “So far this has been a fantastic partnership with the county jail systems and the communities. At Lac du Flambeau, the Tribe has been very proactive in beginning classes this spring, and we hope to continue into the future,” added Ms. Paap.
The college and Tribe hope the educational experience will prevent individuals from re-offending and act as a springboard for successful re-entry into the community. “This jail education program supports the mission of our institution, which is to bring higher education to the Ojibwe communities we serve,” said Ms. Paap. “It’s a reality of all of our communities that we have people who are incarcerated and we can’t forget about them.”