MARINETTE  — A milestone reached by the people involved with the inmate education program at the Marinette County Jail was celebrated Tuesday at a meeting of the county board’s Public Services Committee before many of the corrections and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College personnel involved in the accomplishment.

In January, a GED (General Education Diploma) was obtained for the 200th time by an inmate in the  Marinette County Jail, Joseph Mosur, inmate education and programs sergeant, reported to the committee.

“That’s an extraordinary accomplishment,” he said. “In 2018, 86 GED tests were taken with our faculty and 74 of those tests received a passing grade which equated to an 86 percent success rate. In total 11 inmates received their GEDs in 2018.

“I want to thank the Marinette County jail staff, our officers, the sheriff and the administrative staff for helping shuffle inmates and volunteers to and from programs. And NWTC and the students themselves. Obviously being in the jail environment is no easy task. With their work and the instructors at NWTC, we were able to hit the mark of 200 GEDs, which is a great accomplishment.”

Jail Administrator Bob Majewski thanked many past and present members of his staff for playing a role in the accomplishment, including current corrections officers Stephanie Timblin and Mosur, Assistant Jail Administrator Tom Bourque and Ellen Hanneman and Grant Kuehnl, who preceded Mosur as inmate education and programs directors.

He retraced the history of  the GED program becoming a reality in the jail, recalling that in the 1990s and early 2000s, there was planning done for the current Law Enforcement Center to have a number of rooms in it designated for inmate programs.

“In March of 2004 our Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee had tours of our facility and NWTC,” Majewski said. “In February of 2005, NWTC Dean Pat O’Hara came to a meeting of the committee and discussed what programs were available at NWTC for inmates.

“There was a discussion about having a video system between the two buildings (the LEC and NWTC). I believe Stephanie was tasked with trying to coordinate all the inmate programs and getting then started, along with doing her other corrections officers duties. In October of 2005, a subcommittee was appointed for the GED program and in 2005 the video equipment was in place and NWTC staff were available for the program for 24 hours a week.”

He said by January of 2006, 10 inmates had taken TAG tests and eight more were interested in doing so, and that  in March discussion began about making the jail a testing site and tutoring of inmates began. In October of 2008, Majewski said funds for the program were requested from the county budget.

In December of 2008, it was reported to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee that three people in 2007 and 11 in 2008 received their GEDs. The following year, the jail was approved as a testing site so inmates no longer needed to be transported to NWTC.

Majewski said the big change in the program came around February of 2010 when Hanneman became the county’s first inmate education corrections officer.

“We were finally able to take off, not only with the GED, but with the other programs,” Majewski said. “We finally had a person whose sole job was to take care of programs.”

He said another key moment was when the county was awarded a rural law enforcement assistance grant.

“I personally would like to thank Stephanie, Ellen, Grant, Joe and Tom and all the other corrections officers for their efforts and hard work to make these programs a success,” Majewski said.

Another key person in the success of the GED program has been Gary Johnson, who has been the math and GED instructor at NWTC for 32 years.

He said Marinette County is “way ahead of the norm” with 70 percent of its inmates being successful in seeking to get GEDs compared to the national average of about 15 percent.

“Just like any endeavor, none of this occurs without great team efforts,” Johnson said. “This is the fruit you’re seeing from a combination of work from the jail staff, the sheriff, Bob (Majewski), the coordinator of the jail programs and the educators and our test center at NWTC.

“This is a partnership and it’s been  really successful and you can be proud of it.”

Johnson thanked many of the present and past staff at NWTC, including O’Hara.

“We do have a good program here,” he said to the committee. “We thank you for all your support you’ve given for this endeavor. 

“It does pay off. The recidivism rate has been going down. It’s been a solid program and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Supervisor Glenn Broderick asked if the inmates get help to find a job after they obtain their GEDs and get out of jail.

Mosur said individuals from the Wisconsin Jobs Center help inmates develop resumes and NWTC personnel come over to the jail to discuss further educational opportunities.

“The jail is a motivating factor,” said Sheriff Jerry Sauve. “They have a captive audience and it’s something to do. It gives them a bit of motivation to bear down.

“It’s taken not only just the people that have been in these positions, but the entire staff to work cooperatively to move people around and get all these things accomplished. I think it’s just a tremendous accomplishment.”