Western program helps ex-offenders

August 19, 2013

From wxow.com: “Western program helps ex-offenders” — LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)– Western Technical College has a new initiative to help inmates transition to life outside of jail.

Western received a nearly $292,000 grant from the Federal Department of Education to aid a program geared toward helping inmates re-enter the community through education and social services.

For 15 years Western has provided educational opportunities in the jail but the new grant, called the Positive Re-entry Offered through Vocation-and Education-focused Narratives or PROVEN, goes beyond classes in jail.

Clifton just got his High school diploma, but the he didn’t take the typical route to graduation.

Clifton Traywick just got his High school diploma, but the he didn’t take the typical route to graduation.

“Partying, drinking and stuff, I got in some trouble ended up in jail. I did six months in jail,” Traywick said.

Clifton used those six months to get back on track, getting his GED and utilizing Western Technical College’s PROVEN program.

“People coming out of jail, while they’re in, will receive employability training through our education program, learn how to use the services that are available to them as they enter back in to the community,” said Chad Dull, dean of Learner Support and Transition at Western. “The intention of the grant is successful re-entry and for Western, hopefully transition to educational programs here at Western.”

To reduce the rate of re-offending, Western works not only with the La Crosse County Jail but other programs and groups like the YWCA, Justice Sanctions and Workforce Connections.

“Helping participants identify the resources that are in the community, to help them find housing if they have a felony, to help them maintain their sobriety in whatever capacity that looks like for those individuals, that’s definitely a huge part of this program,” said Tonya Vantol, the project coordinator.

Traywick says the program could reach a lot of inmates.

“It can help people not just as young as me, but people older too,” Traywick said. “Everybody needs help sometimes. People mess up and I feel like Western is a good way to get back on your feet.”

But it’s not just the inmates and ex-offenders reaping the benefits of Western’s program. The Proven Grant is working for the greater good of the community.

“It’s a fair question about why invest in people when they’re in jail. It’s always more cost effective to make sure people don’t go back to jail,” Dull said. “This is a way to turn tax users into tax payers. This is an investment in our community.”

The PROVEN grant is still in it’s infancy but already there are success stories like Clifton’s.

“I’m doing so well. I’m not hanging out with the same crowd, I’m not partying anymore. So I feel like, what can stop me?”

Clifton got out of jail a couple of weeks ago and is still utilizing the Proven program. He will begin classes at Western on Aug 29.

There were over 80 programs that applied for the grant with Western being one of just three selected. Western is the only program that serves a jail. The other two assist prison populations.

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