Education Preparedness Program

The U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate, imprisoning 655 citizens per 100,000. Wisconsin maintains one of the highest rates of Black male incarceration nationally (Pawasarat and Quinn 2013). Approximately one in eight Black men in Wisconsin are currently incarcerated (12.8%). These trends only become worse when focusing on specific neighborhoods in Milwaukee, where over 50% of Black men can expect to be incarcerated at some point in their life (Jackson 2019). Most incarcerated individuals are eventually released to their original communities in the Milwaukee area, typically neighborhoods surrounding Marquette University’s campus. 


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The Education Preparedness Program

Research shows that education can provide currently and formerly incarcerated individuals with a viable pathway to successful reintegration. Our experience has shown that educational success for currently and formerly incarcerated (CFI) populations requires wrap-around services that support the whole person as they pursue education and career goals as part of a flourishing life. Built on partnerships within Marquette and across Milwaukee, Marquette University’s Center for Urban Research, Teaching and Outreach (CURTO) houses the Educational Preparedness Program (EPP) to provide pathways to higher learning, academic advising and career services for the currently and formerly incarcerated.

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The Milwaukee Prison Education Consortium

CURTO, in collaboration with social justice initiatives across Milwaukee, has established the EPP as part of an emerging regional effort—the Milwaukee Prison Education Consortium, or MPEC—that offers wrap-around services for CFI populations through strategic aligning of institutional resources to break the cycle of recidivism in our over-incarcerated city. As the education-centered component of MPEC, the EPP in particular aims to improve academic and career guidance and expand college degree pathways for students in Wisconsin state prisons and re-entry populations.

Expanding the Blended Course Model

The seeds of our program were sown in 2015 with one blended Philosophy course entitled "Narrating freedom: Gender and Mass Incarceration" that enrolled 12 Marquette undergraduates and 12 incarcerated students from the Milwaukee Women's Correctional Center, alternating locations between MWCC and Marquette campus.

Innovation Poster


Images below are of final presentations of "Narrating Freedom: Gender and Mass Incarceration," Spring 2017.

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Blended course offerings for Spring 2022

Inside Courses

"Inside" courses, enrolling a blend of traditional Marquette undergraduates and currently incarcerated students, held inside correctional facilities:

  • Ms. Wendy Volz-Daniels, “Invisible Sentence: Policy and Practice for Children Who are Impacted by Parental Incarceration”
  • Dr. Gabriel Velez, “Psychology of Human Development of Children and Adolescents in Diverse Society” 
  • Dr. Angela Sorby, “Creative Writing: Poetry” 

Outside Courses

"Outside" courses, enrolling a blend of traditional Marquette undergraduates and formerly incarcerated students, held on Marquette campus:

  • Dr. Theresa Tobin, Ms. Marisola Xhelili Ciaccio and Mr. James (Mahmood) Watkins, “University Honors Program Engaging Social Systems and Values: Mass Incarceration” outside course, to be offered in conjunction with “Narrating Freedom: Gender and Incarceration” inside course, Spring 2021
  • Dr. Anya Degenshein, “Surveillance, Law, and Society”
  • Dr. Bryan Rindfleisch, “A History of Native America”