It’s easy to see how the world can look very different—and feel very intimidating— to adults just coming out of prison. Fortunately, there are resources to help them transition smoothly back into community life, says Danny Ludeman, president and CEO of Concordance Academy of Leadership in Maryland Heights. Concordance launched in St. Louis just two years ago, but it’s already showing promising results.

“About 77 percent of individuals released from prison are arrested again within 5 years,” Ludeman notes. “It’s the third-largest social issue our nation faces, and it affects about 100 million people, including 10 million children whose parents have been incarcerated.” To lessen recidivism rates and help families regroup, the Academy leads classes of 42 inmates each, six times a year. They begin six months before the individuals leave prison and continue after they are out. And the organization has big plans for future growth. “We’ll take 250 participants a year through 2019, and once we’re showing strong results, our goal is to accept 1,000 each year in St. Louis,” Ludeman says. “We also plan to serve 1,000 a year in Kansas City by 2020 and have the program in every state by 2026.”

Once it reaches full scale, the Concordance model is expected to produce profound results. “We don’t think there will be any other program in the country with a bigger impact on reducing crime,” Ludeman notes. Concordance reaches inmates through an “evidence-driven, holistic model” that validates their need for compassionate help and consistency. Currently, the program works with men from prisons in Bonne Terre and Pacific, and women from a Vandalia, Missouri, penitentiary. “While inmates are incarcerated, they receive assessments that give us an idea of what issues they are experiencing,” Ludeman says. “Then we help them create a ‘life plan’ regarding health, education, employment and life skills, and we continue to assist them for a year after release.”

Educators and clinicians work with inmates in groups and individually. Once participants leave prison, they are paid to attend intensive reintroduction sessions for several weeks. “When they get out of prison, the most immediate need these individuals have is money,” Ludeman says. “We wanted to make sure the program would not get in the way of them earning an income.” Concordance also contracts with area companies to provide post-release employment for participants, and a job coach meets with them regularly. The organization has agreements with housing developers to provide affordable apartments, and volunteers from employers and faith communities offer mentoring and moral support.

“It really is a wonderful thing,” Ludeman says of the program. “It’s still early, so we don’t have a huge representative sample to base results on yet. But they look promising so far, and we’re continuing to learn more about the people we serve.”

It costs about $20,000 to put one adult through the program, so fundraising is a top priority for Concordance. Its Gala 2017, a Halloween-themed, cocktail-attire bash at The Ritz-Carlton on Oct. 21, is a major source of financial support. The event features emcee Randi Naughton and is co- chaired by Kerrin and Dave Kowach, Mary and Billy Clarkson, and Catherine and Tad Edwards. “It will be a spectacular celebration, with a silent auction, music, dancing and fun activities,” Ludeman says. “Costumes are encouraged but not required. We plan to ‘own’ the Halloween party scene in St. Louis this year!”

Concordance Academy of Leadership helps inmates transition successfully out of incarceration. This year’s Gala 2017: A Halloween Soiree takes place at 6 p.m. Oct. 21 at The Ritz-Carlton. Presenting sponsors are Centene Charitable Foundation, Marilyn and Sam Fox, and Thelma and David Steward.

Pictured on the cover: Henry Allen, partnership team coordinator; Michelle Smith, chief administrative officer; Danny Ludeman, president and CEO; Sarah Topal, director of Concordance Institute; and Joel Black, services and counseling coordinator. For more information, call 314.396.6006 or visit

Cover Design: Julie Streiler | Cover Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography