ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – Twenty-five detainees in the Kane County jail are taking general education degree classes from Waubonsee Community College in a rejuvenated program under Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain.
Adam Schauer, dean for adult education at Waubonsee Community College, said the program was in place back when the jail was located in Geneva, before inmates were moved to the current facility in 2008.
“Then it was on hiatus for a long time,” Schauer said. “When Sheriff Hain reached out to us about initiating it ... we were planning and launched it this year Aug. 1.”
Hain said he was excited to have an opportunity for detainees to earn their high school equivalency degrees.
“This will really infuse some educational courses in the jail and allow detainees to continue their education,” Hain said.
The program is set up with two instructors who rotate through four inmate pods, serving different populations from Monday through Thursday, Schauer said.
“The program we launched is a very unique GED model,” Schauer said. “It’s a hybrid model with very much individualized instruction.”
Students use tablets provided through a nonprofit which allows them to access the state’s high school equivalency online program called i-Pathways, he said.
Students log on and take an assessment, so their areas of study focus on where they need to bring up their achievement levels to pass the high school equivalency
Employment is the biggest barrier for detainees once they are released, he said.
“If someone has a criminal background, already they have huge hurdles to overcome to achieve meaningful employment,” Schauer said. “The biggest barrier to recidivism is employment.”
Once released from jail or prison, a person may have the best of intentions to turn their life around, but find they can’t find employment to take care of their responsibilities, he said.
They may find that only way to make money is to return to the criminal activity they were doing before, so they end up back where they started – in jail, Schauer said.
“Maybe their parents never finished high school, so it’s a cyclical event,” Schauer said. “Incarceration, lack of education, lack of access to meaningful employment and a cycle keeps on. With this program, and Sheriff Hain and his staff, we break up that generational cycle and give people opportunities to move on with their life.”
Finishing high school is the “99.9% minimum requirement” to employment, he said.
"There are plenty of hurdles once they come out,” Schauer said. “We can help get this hurdle done."
All adult education programs provided by community colleges are funded by state and federal grants through the Illinois Community College Board, Schauer said.
Waubonsee and Elgin Community College also offer transition advisers if detainees are released before they finish the program.
They can also apply for financial assistance or career training at the community colleges near where they live, once they complete their high school equivalency, Schauer said.
“If they are from downstate or other areas, we would work on their behalf to link to the program in their immediate area,” Schauer said.