Western Courier

Western tech used in county jails: CAIT program used in inmate education

The+McDonough+County+Jail+has+implemented+the+iPathways+program+developed+at+Western+Illinois+University+to+assist+in+inmates+looking+to+pass+the+GED+exam.
The McDonough County Jail has implemented the iPathways program developed at Western Illinois University to assist in inmates looking to pass the GED exam.

The McDonough County Jail has implemented the iPathways program developed at Western Illinois University to assist in inmates looking to pass the GED exam.

File Photo

File Photo

The McDonough County Jail has implemented the iPathways program developed at Western Illinois University to assist in inmates looking to pass the GED exam.

Marc Ramirez, Assistant News Editor

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The Center for the Application of Information Technologies (CAIT) at Western Illinois University has recently started a program that would allow inmates in county jails to expand on their education while incarcerated.

The program, i-Pathways Oasis, gives inmates the opportunity to prepare for, and obtain, a high school GED through a secure system. This educational technology is already being offered to those serving time in the McDonough County Jail. i-Pathways curriculum director Kathy Olesen-Tracey believes a high school equivalency exam is worth taking.

“Once an individual has a high school equivalency diploma, the opportunity to advance in training and secure sustainable employment becomes an option,” Olesen-Tracey said.

In February, members of the United States Senate Round Table praised the program, which helped its rise to notoriety. One inmate in the McDonough County Jail has already passed the GED exam, and according to McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker, that’s a giant step in the right direction. “Education opens doors, and this program has the potential to turn around some lives,” VanBrooker said. Spoon River College will now allow that inmate to join their welding program.

VanBrooker partnered with i-Pathways Project Manager, Brandon John, who have helped maintain Illinois’s GED pass rate, which is the highest of any state in the country. The state has saved over $1 million because of that high pass rate, and numbers like that make the program even more valuable, according to CAIT Director Paul Sweet

The program’s success is 18 years in the making; it was developed in 2000 with the help of the Illinois Community College Board, where it served adults who had trouble earning GEDs in the past. Since the high school equivalency program requirements are always changing, i-Pathways Oasis has had to adapt in order to meet standards. Even with the changes made over the years, the program has served over 30,000 adult learners in Illinois alone, while also making its way to jails in Michigan and Nevada.

The program will not only be implemented in more prisons across the country; remote tribal communities in states like Alaska, which lack internet access, will soon be given the opportunity to complete the program.

For Olesen-Tracy, it’s not just about the program reaching a national level that makes it successful. “It’s the personal successes, such as the one in McDonough County, that make the project so meaningful.”

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Western tech used in county jails: CAIT program used in inmate education