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WIU's CAIT and McDonough County Jail Partner to Offer Inmate Educational Opportunity

October 14, 2015


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MACOMB, IL — The Center for the Application of Information Technologies (CAIT) at Western Illinois University and the McDonough County Sheriff's Office are working together to install a new version of the i-Pathways project for inmates in the McDonough County Jail. According to CAIT Director Richard Chamberlain, i-Pathways is the High School Equivalency preparation curriculum developed by CAIT.

Chamberlain said participation in education programs while incarcerated can have a major impact on individuals' lives. He noted the RAND Corporation 2014 study, a review of 30 years of research of corrections education, revealed that inmate participation in education programs reduces recidivism by 43 percent. The report further indicates that for every dollar spent on education, there is a $4 return on investment.

"This shows that education programs have real impact. By educating those incarcerated and assisting with their transitions out of correctional facilities, they are less likely to return to jail," Chamberlain added.

"Typically i-Pathways is licensed for use in adult-education programs or corrections facilities using an Internet-delivery method, but for some in the correctional community, the use of the Internet is prohibited or technically unfeasible," he explained. "As a result, CAIT has developed a remote i-Pathways solution that does not require the Internet to function. In order to address the diverse needs of correctional facilities without Internet access, CAIT has developed a system that serves as a remote wireless hotspot and a content server, all in one package. It's called the 'Oasis Project.' In the McDonough County Jail, students will connect with a wireless laptop (a Chromebook) to access the curriculum on the Oasis box."

i-Pathways provides students with a full preparation curriculum, including math, science, social studies and language arts. It is aligned with national, state and Common Core Standards, preparing individuals to pass the GED, HiSET, TASC and other high school equivalency tests. Through its use, students also become more computer and technology literate.

"This will be CAIT's first deployment of Oasis, but we have received interest from people all over the country for this learning solution. We wanted to start in McDonough County for a few reasons, including because Sheriff Rick VanBrooker has been very encouraging, and he is looking to provide an educational opportunity to those in the McDonough County Jail. Special thanks goes out to Sheriff VanBrooker for his vision to provide this resource, as most small jails do not have education programs," he noted.

Chamberlain also said CAIT staff wanted to provide this resource to make a difference in the local community.

"In addition, for those in the McDonough County Jail who complete their sentences in the Illinois Department of Corrections, they will be able to continue preparing for their GED tests, as i-Pathways is being used statewide in the IDOC," he said. "Inmates released from the jail will be able to continue using i-Pathways in the majority of adult-education programs in Illinois, as well. And finally, because the McDonough County Jail and CAIT both are located in Macomb, new technology and additional instructional components on Oasis will be easy for us to test for functionality."

CAIT will offer the i-Pathways Oasis Project nationally and has already garnered interest from jails and correctional facilities in Illinois, Washington (state), New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado. Chamberlain said CAIT personnel is also in discussions with tribal communities in Alaska and the southwest to utilize the Oasis Project in several remote locations.

For more information, contact Chamberlain at (309) 298-1804 or via email at RE-Chamberlain@wiu.edu.

Learn more about i-Pathways online at www.i-pathways.org. Visit CAIT online at www.cait.org.

Posted By: WIU News (U-Relations@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations