When I first reached out via e-mail to Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis at Washington University in St. Louis at the Brown School of Social Work, it was simply to introduce myself as a fellow advocate for criminal justice reform. After she replied, I did not think I’d hear from the Concordance Institute again . . . oh, was I wrong!
More than a year went by, and, to my surprise, Taylor Decker, a master’s student working on a new prison research project under Dr. Pettus-Davis, reached out and asked me to be a Community Liaison Board Member in the St. Louis area!
Knowing that more than a quarter of the world’s prison population resides in the United States, I was excited to hear about the launch of the Concordance Institute for Advancing Social Justice. The Concordance Institute, according to its website, is “a community–university partnership committed to innovation, rigorous real-world research, and the delivery of sophisticated services to justice-involved adults.”
I asked Taylor, “What does that even mean?” I could feel her excitement through the phone as she explained that the Concordance Institute is a research center within the Brown School of Social Work, which is second in the nation. The Institute provides data to community-based programs, such as the Concordance Academy, which is a reentry program that provides holistic pre- and post-release services.
According to the Institute, 77% of those released will be rearrested, 72% will not find a job, and 83% will struggle with substance abuse.
Since over twenty thousand prisoners are released annually in the state of Missouri, it’s a good thing programs like this exist. According to the Institute, 77% of those released will be rearrested, 72% will not find a job, and 83% will struggle with substance abuse. Moreover, released prisoners are five times more likely to be homeless than are citizens who have never been incarcerated.
With those staggering numbers, the Concordance Academy was established as the vehicle of the Institute’s research initiatives, which are aimed at innovating new programs of rehabilitation for those behind bars. According to the Institute, incarcerated individuals should not be viewed as criminals who should be feared, but rather as U.S. citizens who are in need of help. All Americans deserve Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Taylor explained that my role as a Community Liaison Board Member would be to provide feedback on ongoing Concordance Institute projects. Each board member is expected to make a difference—not just at a local level in St. Louis, but nationally as well. The Academy plans to expand past the state level as a flagship platform for reentry programming and services.
Over six hundred thousand people are released from prisons and jails annually in the United States.
Over six hundred thousand people are released from prisons and jails annually in the United States. They have trouble finding jobs, housing, food, higher education, and mental stability. The numbers are staggering. You could fill the old St. Louis Rams stadium ten times with that amount of people.
I’m proud to be a Community Liaison Board Member at the Concordance Institute. If you, too, have been affected by incarceration and are interested in working with the first research center of its kind in a school of social work dedicated to scientific discovery on issues of incarnation, please call Taylor Decker at 314.935.6025 or email [email protected].