In the News
Imagine investing $50 billion a year in a program that only has a 50 percent success rate. That’s the annual tab in the U.S. to hold more than 2 million people in jails and prisons on any given day. Experts say half of them wind up back behind bars within three years of being released from custody. And yet, academics and criminal justice professionals who gathered here Friday for a conference at Washington University came with fresh optimism about a trend that over the past 40 years has led the U.S. to have the largest incarcerated population in the world.
While hundreds of journalists, social workers, formerly incarcerated individuals and policy makers will convene at Washington University over the weekend to rethink and transform nationwide criminal justice, another group of the University’s professors has been focusing their efforts on a continuing education program for local prison inmates.
More than 150 people are gathering today at Washington University in St. Louis to ponder a radical remake of the way incarceration is used in the U.S., reports St. Louis Public Radio. The conference is the first major undertaking for the Smart Decarceration Initiative. Carrie Pettus-Davis of the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University is one of the organizers.
The keynote event for the Brown School’s Smart Decarceration Initiative will feature two individuals who are making a positive impact on prison reform.
Pope Francis is widely expected to address a range of issues when he visits the United States Sept. 22-27, including the crisis of mass incarceration in the U.S. criminal justice system. The attention is needed and welcome, said a criminal justice reform expert at Washington University in St. Louis.
For Danny Ludeman, God’s call came in the form of a letter. In the fall of 2013, Ludeman, then 56, announced he would step down after 15 years as CEO of St. Louis–based Wells Fargo Advisors. In a subsequent interview with the local press, he mentioned that after leaving Wells, he wanted to spend 100% of his time “helping other people,” perhaps by running a nonprofit organization. As you might expect, his mailbox was flooded with offers. But one in particular caught his eye.
Carrie Pettus-Davis, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, has been tapped to serve as executive director for the research initiative of a new public, private and academic partnership aimed at lowering incarceration rates in the United States.
Illinois has officially thrown its hat in the ring to take on one of the state’s most entrenched institutions – prisons. These days, it seems that nearly everyone agrees that reducing incarceration is necessary, whether for financial, social, or political reasons. But as we attempt to reverse mass incarceration, we could learn an important lesson from our history by asking – how do we avoid the mistakes made with deinstitutionalization?