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In 2009, struck by the stark correlations between rates low literacy rates and high rates of incarceration, Chaplain John Mix first started bringing literacy tutors into the jail.

Today the Jail Tutoring Program is coordinated by Dr. Rosemary S. Russ, a faculty member from UW Madison’s School of Education, who leads a team of volunteers which include students, faculty, and staff from UW and retired teachers from the local community.

Using a group of approximately 15 trained volunteers, we provide weekly, one-on-one tutoring for men and women who are incarcerated in the Dane County Jails. In these sessions, learners work to achieve goals they set for themselves. Over the last year alone, we have worked with individuals on basic reading and writing, advanced literary analysis, mathematical fluency for passing the GED, resume building and job skills, and memoir writing as a mechanism for processing their life experiences. The 90-minute meetings with our tutors provide much-needed intellectual stimulation and human engagement for our learners (and tutors!). Further, most learners request “homework” that keeps them engaged and focused on productive activity throughout the week.

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People interested in becoming a tutor can expect the following training and support:

  • Two training sessions with ongoing support and opportunities for additional skill development;

  • Teaching resources and materials;

  • Mentorship and follow-up with seasoned tutors; there is a regular tutor meeting the second Thursday of each month from 6:30-7:30 pm at Goodman South Madison Library.



  • Come from a variety of backgrounds.

  • Are willing to commit to collaborative educational approaches that support the whole person.

  • Make a commitment to meet with their learner for at least one 90 minute session per week. (Schedules can be flexed to accommodate vacations, etc…)

  • Develop lessons and work with learner-selected materials.

  • Are willing to abide by rules and regulations as instructed in the jail orientation.



If you are interested in tutoring, please contact us at

  • Complete paperwork authorizing a background check for entry to the jail.

  • Attend jail orientation. Once your paperwork has been approved, you will be contacted by the jail to schedule the orientation tour.

  • Attend tutor training (next dates to be determined)

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