A New Path
It’s difficult to comprehend the range of health, financial and family issues faced by formerly incarcerated adults re-entering society. Some nonprofits try to help with basic employment and training programs, and while their efforts are worthy, Concordance Academy of Leadership CEO Danny Ludeman says a much broader range of services is needed to help them succeed and avoid reincarceration. Since 2016, Concordance has been addressing these needs with a comprehensive reintroduction program that includes legal assistance.
According to Ludeman, when people are released from prison, they often have legal problems like outstanding warrants, child support disputes and unresolved traffic violations. His organization and the Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner law firm have established Concordance Legal Fellows, a program that pairs attorneys with participants to help them clear up these matters. This way, they can move forward without spending more time in jail waiting to see a judge. The program saves the court system significant resources as well, Ludeman says. To date, the attorneys have helped resolve 431 cases, made 383 court appearances on participants’ behalf and cleared 337 warrants.
Legal help is just one of the many ways Concordance helps participants reintegrate with the community. “In Missouri, the median number of times they return to prison is seven,” Ludeman explains. “Most have had substance use issues, and many have serious mental illness or medical problems like diabetes and COPD. Because they tend to land in the justice system at a young age, they often have minimal education, and there are no job skills, work experience or family support to build on.”
To help them get a fresh start, Concordance offers a multiphase re-entry program that begins six months before release. Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work helped design the initiative, which provides a physical, psychological and socioenvironmental assessment and a personalized ‘life plan’ focusing on behavioral health, wellness, education, employment and life skills. Concordance staffers and counselors work closely with men and women before and after release to make sure their needs are met and they are staying on the right track. Most take on part-time employment at BJC HealthCare, Schnuck Markets or TAGG Logistics facilities and transition to full-time work when they are ready.
Concordance currently helps people from Missouri men’s prisons in Bonne Terre and Pacific and a women’s facility in Vandalia. Later this year, it plans to begin serving southwestern Illinois as well. Participants are referred to the program by the state department of corrections. “We take about 250 people each year,” Ludeman explains. “We know the program is working because we have helped lower Missouri’s reincarceration rate by 42 percent since we began. Concordance and its partners are helping to heal individuals and reunite families.” Ultimately, the idea is to introduce the program nationwide. The organization has been privately funded so far, but it is working with the state of Missouri on a plan to receive public funding on a pay-for-performance model.
To help make its crucial services a reality, Concordance throws an exciting fundraising gala each autumn. This year, it’s called Big Top Bizarre, a circus- and Halloween-themed event held Oct. 19 at The Ritz-Carlton. Seven co-chairs from a variety of organizations are working hard to make it a fantastic evening, Ludeman says. The festive event includes dinner, auctions, raffles and more. Vic Faust of Fox2 KTVI will emcee, and musical entertainment will include Tyler Filmore and KC Flo. All proceeds support Concordance services.
“Up to 60 percent of criminal offenses in Missouri are committed by the formerly incarcerated,” Ludeman notes. “Public safety is a tangible issue that everyone can get behind. We believe there is no greater way to combat crime and reincarceration than by supporting Concordance Academy.”
Concordance Academy of Leadership provides a comprehensive program of services to help the formerly incarcerated re-enter the community. Its Big Top Bizarre Gala will be held Oct. 19 at The Ritz-Carlton. Pictured on the cover: Kaitlyn Parker, Danny Ludeman, Ron Dawson, Ellen Whitehorn. For more information on the event, call 314.396.6019 or visit concordanceacademy.com/gala.
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography
Pictured at top: CEO Danny Ludeman
Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography
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