Over the past 25 years, the Ozaukee County Jail Literacy Program (OCJLP) has served more than 300 graduating inmates.

On Thursday, April 4, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch visited the jail for a tour of the facility's literacy program, and praised the work of both the teachers and inmates involved.

"There are over 90,000 open jobs in Wisconsin, and I see no reason why graduates of this program can't help fill those spots," said Kleefisch. "They may have made poor choices in the past, but it's encouraging to see these people take advantage of their time before they are released."

Kleefisch met with inmates and teachers in the OCJLP as part of her campaign to highlight efforts to fill manufacturing jobs in the state of Wisconsin. In February, Kleefisch visited RAM Tool Inc. to promote the expansion of high school apprenticeship programs.

The OCJLP was founded in 1992 as a private, non-profit organization that provides educational opportunities such as GED testing, basic literacy skills, and job readiness to inmates

"Because this is a short-term facility, we only have a small window of time for participants in the program," said Holly Ryan, president of OCJLP. "It takes the efforts of a dedicated staff of volunteers combined with a focused and select group of inmates willing to better themselves while they are incarcerated."

While other jails and penitentiaries offer education programs to their inmates, the OCJLP serves as the only private agency in Wisconsin that provides education at the jail level. In 2000, Gov. Tommy Thompson cited the program as a "state model," encouraging other facilities to implement similar education opportunities.

"It can be a struggle to try to get programs like this started elsewhere," said Capt. Jeff Sauer, administrator for the county jail. "Sheriff (James) Johnson and I make recommendations to other sheriffs during statewide meetings, and we try to explain that our efforts have allowed inmates to use their time wisely and point them on the right path."

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