ST. LOUIS – Nearly 700 St. Louis business, civic and community leaders gathered on Friday evening, November 20, at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis for Concordance Academy of Leadership’s inaugural Gateway Gala, which featured keynote speaker, General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.). Concordance Academy was founded, in collaboration with the Concordance Institute for Advancing Social Justice, this past spring by former Wells Fargo CEO Danny Ludeman and Washington University Brown School’s Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis as the first public, private and academic partnership focused on lowering incarceration rates in the country.
“As a soldier I spent 35 years working with young people, taking young men and women in the Armed Forces of the United States of all backgrounds and teaching them what it is to be a soldier and what it is to work hard, what it is to believe in yourself, what it is to believe in America. And it’s that same sort of approach that we have to take with respect to these people who are coming out of our prisons,” said Powell. “We don’t have the ability to really help them while they are in jail, and increasingly over the last 20 years, we’ve been more concerned with just incarcerating and punishing them rather than preparing them for what’s waiting for them after they leave jail.”
A photo of Powell speaking at the event is available here. General Powell was joined onstage by guest emcee Ann Compton, former ABC News White House Correspondent. Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, Ludeman, Pettus-Davis, and retired St. Louis City Chief of Police Daniel Isom, II also made remarks during the program.
“For the last three decades, 77 percent of individuals released from prison are arrested for a new crime within five years. Of those released, more than half are arrested by the end of their first year. But these are more than just statistics; these are men and women, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters,” said Ludeman. “Through the multi-faceted approach of Concordance Academy, backed by the scientific analysis of the Institute, we can provide the training, resources and support necessary to solve this problem that destroys so many individuals, families and communities.”
After discussing the impact of incarceration, calling out the more than 2.7 million children in the United States who have at least one parent in prison, Ludeman welcomed Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri CEO, Bonnie Barczykowski, to discuss the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program. Founded 20 years ago, this program keeps daughters connected with their incarcerated mothers. Ten girls who participate in the program performed as a choir for the audience.
Dr. Pettus-Davis detailed the daunting task of reducing recidivism in the country, “If we want to solve the problem of high incarceration rates in the U.S. – which has become the world leader for incarceration – we have to improve the lives of nearly 700,000 people released each year.”
“When we launched the Concordance initiative, we asked ourselves: With the proper resources, evidence-based practices and funding, could we materially reduce recidivism and could we do it on a scalable basis? Our goal of the Concordance Academy is to do just this; reduce high rates of incarceration and the persistent failure of former prisoners to integrate back into our communities. And our goal is to do this on a national level,” noted Ludeman.
Presented by Centene Corporation, the Gateway Gala event and operations were fully funded by an anonymous donor, allowing all proceeds from ticket sales, sponsorships, raffles, fund-a-need donations, and silent and live auctions to go directly to the Academy’s programs and services.
Additional photos of the event can be at:
- Photo 1 (Concordance Academy of Leadership CEO Danny Ludeman and CAO Gary Dollar)
- Photo 2 (Keynote speaker General Colin L. Powell and Danny Ludeman)
- Photo 3 (Event emcee Ann Compton and General Colin L. Powell)
- Photo 4 (Concordance Institute of Social Justice Founding Director Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis and Danny Ludeman)
ABOUT CONCORDANCE ACADEMY
Concordance Academy is a St. Louis-based nonprofit that offers the country’s first set of integrated, holistic and evidence-driven services to individuals returning to society from prison. Led by President and CEO Danny Ludeman, the organization assists participants in three primary areas: behavioral health and wellness; education and employment; and community and life skills. The Academy starts working with individuals six months prior to release and continues assisting for up to a year after their return to the community. The organization is committed to restoring individuals, rebuilding families, transforming communities and advancing the field of re-entry services. For more info, visit www.concordanceacademy.com.