Inmate Funded Educational Scholarship Kicks Off Dec. 5

Inmate Funded Educational Scholarship Kicks Off Dec. 5

By Carolyn Bucior

An inmate-funded scholarship will be jointly announced by the Milwaukee House of Correction, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare, and the Creative Corrections Education Foundation at an event Thursday, Dec. 5, 3-4 p.m. at the Milwaukee County House of Correction, 8885 S. 68th St., Franklin.

Current inmates at the House of Correction have already pledged $400 per month to the scholarship, joining inmates in New Mexico and Texas. (That pledge amount will likely grow.) Their contributions will provide educational scholarships for children of inmates in Milwaukee County and surrounding areas.

The hope is obvious: for inmates’ children not to follow a life of crime. “We’re trying to break the cycle by supporting the education of prisoners’ children,” says Stan Stojkovic, dean of the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. According to the American Correctional Association, up to 50 percent of incarcerated juveniles have an incarcerated parent.

The scholarship fund is the brainchild of Boscobel, Wis., native Percy Pitzer, retired warden of Oxford Federal Prison and founder of the non-profit Creative Corrections Education Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to support equal opportunities for students whose parent or guardian is incarcerated or paroled and to stop second-generation crime.

A total of 31 $1,000 scholarships have been awarded thus far in 2013, and Pitzer anticipates awarding nine more by year’s end.

Pitzer travels the country asking inmates to consider making small, monthly donations (which he phrases as “the cost of a candy bar each month”) or one-time donations to scholarships for children of inmates nationwide. It is not unusual for him to receive standing ovations from the inmates. “Just because a person is in prison doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about children in the community,” he says.

Inmates in Texas and New Mexico have proved him right. The departments of corrections in both states have partnered with Creative Corrections since the foundation’s inception in 2012. “Our hope is that all states will come on board,” Pitzer says. “Inmates can make a difference in their children’s education.”

Donations come from current prisoners, ex-prisoners, and the general public.

“There are 2.4 million men and women incarcerated in America,” says Pitzer. “If every inmate donated a dollar a month, or the price of a candy bar, we could award scholarships to every one of their children and really make a difference.” All donations go toward scholarships.

Education has a research-proven, powerful effect on crime prevention, Stojkovic says. “People with college educations are less likely to commit crimes, from murder to theft. Every year of education makes a difference.” Even small amounts of education can reduce the number of serious, violent crimes in our cities, he says.  Image courtesy

The early momentum of the inmate-funded foundation has given Pitzer a reason to dream big. “If 25 percent of the nation’s inmate population donated one dollar a month, that would total $7.2 million per year,” he says. “Can you imagine what we could accomplish with that?”

Speaking at the event and available for media interviews, will be:

  • Stan Stojkovic, Dean of UWM’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare
  • Percy Pitzer, founder, Creative Corrections Education Foundation
  • Mike Hafemann, superintendent, Milwaukee House of Correction.

Reporters will later be able to interview an inmate who is contributing to the scholarship.

For more information on Creative Corrections Education Foundation or to make a donation:

(First published by Today@UWM and used here with the kind permission of the University of Wisconsin)