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Former CEO of Wells Fargo Advisors launches new program to reduce recidivism

Thomas Hawk | Flickr
new organization in St. Louis County seeks to help incarcerated adults transition into productive and healthy lives upon release from prison. The organization’s name is Concordance Academy.";

A new organization in St. Louis County seeks to help incarcerated adults transition into productive and healthy lives upon release from prison. The organization’s name is Concordance Academy and was founded by Danny Ludeman, the former CEO of Wells Fargo Advisors, and partners with Washington University’s Concordance Institute.

Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Danny Ludeman

“This will be the first public-private academic partnership of its kind in the country,” Ludeman said. “This will also be the first time you’ll have a true integrated, holistic approach to dealing with the problems that affect this population when they are released from prison.”

Former prisoners face a litany of psychological and employment barriers to reentry into society following extended time in prison. Concordance Academy offers substance abuse treatment, job readiness skills, education, mental health treatment, life skills education as well as jobs as part of a holistic approach to assist people during the transition.

Those programs were decided upon based on research on over 100,000 programs across the world that have the best evidence-based approach for transitioning inmates into daily life.

On Tuesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” Ludeman and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger joined host Don Marsh to discuss the project. St. Louis County is giving Community Development Block Grant funds to the academy. 

You can learn more about the organization at its website here.

The inspiration for the program comes from a statistic that the United States has not been able to shake over the past thirty years about recidivism: 77 percent of individuals released from prison reoffend in the next five years.

The program starts six months before an inmate is released from prison with cognitive and behavioral assessments and continues for 12 months after their release with job training, placement and social skills work.

Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Steve Stenger

For Stenger, the statistics about mass incarceration and recidivism were enough to convince him a program like this deserved funding from the county. Some of the numbers:

  • Missouri releases 20,000 prisoners annually and 4,000 of those former prisoners re-enter the St. Louis area
  • Former prisoners struggle with high rates of substance abuse
  • 72 percent of former prisoners don’t find full-time work
  • 50 percent of those without a GED return to prison within two years, which means they’ve reoffended. “That means crime in our community,” said Stenger.
  • Rates of homelessness are four to six times higher than the general population
  • 48,000 Missouri children have a parent in prison. Those kids are six to nine times more likely to wind up in prison themselves.

“That’s where the interest comes from,” Stenger said. “There’s  a public safety component, an economic development component, an inclusion component…there’s so many things that touch our community.”
Stenger said the federal funds that are going to theprogram are an investment to stave off the costs incurred from recidivism.

Concordance Academy started its work in prison this month, and has a staff of seven, three of whom were formerly incarcerated. The only people disqualified from being a part of the program are psychopaths and those who suffer from serious mental illnesses. Although the program does not currently include sex offenders, Ludeman expects it will within the first three years.

“Once I spent time with this population, once I spent time with people who had been incarcerated, moms and dads, sons and daughters, this is broad-based problem,” Ludeman said. “It is not just something that impacts the lower socio-economic class. It is not just a problem that faces one part of the racial component of this country. It impacts everybody. That’s when the compassion started. If you don’t have compassion, it is hard to sustain action.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.