Sharon Abel, an instructor for Lakeshore Technical College, has been responsible for the Adult Basic Education for the Incarcerated Project in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, since 1991. Her commitment to correctional education has made her program a model for others to emulate. Her research on post-release inmates, funding sources, and diversity has been published in professional journals. She is often asked to provide mentorship and give presentations on teaching strategies, financial literacy, grant writing, community partnerships, and promotion. Sharon is known for her enthusiastic, pro-active advocacy of literacy initiatives for county jail inmates and their families. She has received local, state, and national recognition for her work. Sharon can be reached at email@example.com.
Adult Basic Education in the County Jail
A Description of Lakeshore Technical College in the Sheboygan County Detention Center
Sheboygan County, like other counties in Wisconsin, needs to address literacy of all kinds – reading, mathematics, written and oral communications, computer skills, and, yes, financial, family, health, and civics literacy. Over the last two decades, the average number of inmates participating in Lakeshore Technical College’s Adult Basic Education for the Incarcerated Project is 150 per year. Nearly 50% enter the program without a high school credential. Of the approximate seventy individuals pursuing the GED/HSED during any one year generally twenty-five to thirty will identify it as an achievable goal within the academic year. Of those entering the program without a high school credential as many as 90% will enter the program with less than a 9th grade ability in reading, mathematics, or both. The depth of need is exacerbated by the prevalence of limited English proficiency and learning disabilities.
Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) partners with Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department and the State of Wisconsin to provide on-site basic education services for adults incarcerated in the Sheboygan County Detention Center (DC/Jail). These services include, but are not limited to, General Educational Development Certificate/High School Equivalency Diploma (GED/HSED), basic skills review, college preparation, and employment preparation. LTC provides a full-time instructor and equips the Detention Center classroom with textbooks, office supplies, and thirteen computers. LTC provides basic education to inmates of Sheboygan County in both zero to eight and nine to twelve grade levels. Participation in the program is voluntary. Each participant sets individualized education and employment goals at registration and regularly evaluates progress towards those goals with the help of the instructor. The evaluation process includes, but is not limited to, pre- and post-testing. Most common goals include upgrade academic skills, obtain high school equivalency, prepare for college, and obtain employment.
Objectives of LTC’s Adult Basic Education for the Incarcerated Project include, but are not limited to, the following. Adult learners with support of instructional staff are expected to:
- Enter to learn
- Go forth to serve
- Assess attitudes, skills, knowledge
- Set measurable goals
- Evaluate progress towards the pursuit of chosen goals
- Participate in fundamental literacy programming such as career exploration, computer skills, reading, vocabulary, mathematics, written and verbal communication, parenting, health, civics, and personal finances
- Improve literacy levels/grade equivalencies
- Pass GED/HSED tests
- Earn General Educational Development Certificates (GED) and High School Equivalency Diplomas (HSED)
- Participate in the full cap and gown ceremony right alongside other students at the school-wide GED/HSED Graduation ceremony held each June at the main campus in Cleveland, Wisconsin
- Prepare for and/or enroll in post-secondary education
- Obtain, retain, and upgrade employment
- Take responsibility for own actions and decisions
- Be respectful
- Be resourceful
- Peer-tutor in class and in the pods
- Behave responsibly and stay out of jail!
The program is open to any inmate requesting to attend unless there are disciplinary or safety and security issues. Jail Administration denies only a small percentage of requests. When time and space provide, virtually everyone is allowed the privilege to attend educational programming. Thus, on any given day the diversity in the Sheboygan County Detention Center classroom includes but is not limited to diversity of: age, gender, physical and cognitive ability, medical condition, race, ethnicity, criminal record, socioeconomic status and background, employment status and history, educational level, religion, gang involvement, alcohol/drug use, and sexual orientation. Inmates also vary by custody level, escape risk, danger risk, legal status, and expected length of stay.
Length of participation in Lakeshore Technical College’s Sheboygan County Incarcerated Project is based on length of stay and ranges from less than one week to over a year, a two to five month average. As long as behavior meets the classroom Conduct Code and the Detention Center/Jail Rules and the inmate is making progress toward identified goals, the recognized duration of programming for said inmate is from point of registration to release or transfer. However, LTC Instructor Sharon Abel makes it a practice to follow up with her former students and remain an approachable resource for inmates/students post-release. They can reach her by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, voice mail 920.693.1747, and on Facebook.