This fall, prisoners at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington will be able to earn college credits through a program called Wyoming Pathways from Prison.
This is just one of the many educational opportunities this unique partnership between the Department of Corrections and the University of Wyoming is offering incarcerated Wyomingites.
The program is also getting national attention for its work. Betty Abbott, the education programs manager for the Department of Corrections, recently accepted the Austin MacCormick Award on behalf of Wyoming Pathways from Prison. This national award is designed to highlight innovative practices that could be replicated nationwide.
Abbott said expanding access to educational opportunities is critical because helping prisoners also helps our communities. “Public safety is improved if people released with prison with better skills, better thought processes, better critical thinking,” said Abbott.
“When you look at the research nationally education is one of the best predictors of success. So the higher level of education you get the lower your rate of recidivism is.”
Wyoming Pathways from Prison was started just a year ago, which Abbott said made winning the award even more of an honor.
“Typically these awards are given to programs that have been there and sustained,” Abbott explained. “But because we’ve been so creative about how we’ve done things, and the partnership with the university, I think people were impressed that with very little funding and very little resources that we have done what we’ve done so far and kept going with it and been able to sustain it.”
The University of Wyoming provides faculty, staff and supervised students to teach the courses. Abbott said the project is working towards expanding its in-person courses to more facilities, and increasing courses available through online technology.