Concordance Academy hopes to help newly-released inmates -

Concordance Academy hopes to help newly-released inmates

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Concordance Academy (Credit: KMOV) Concordance Academy (Credit: KMOV)

Keeping families together and reducing the number of people who return to prison is the goal behind a first of its kind regional program in St. Louis.        

So far, Concordance Academy of Leadership has gotten the support of the City of St. Louis, along with St. Charles and St. Louis counties.           

Folks at the academy say ex-cons are behind 60 to 65 percent of all crime in the St. Louis region.The academy worked with Washington University for two years to create a program they hope will successfully turn that around, and help to reduce crime.

The focus is on 250 parolees who were released into the St. Louis community.

It begins six months before their release and continues 12 months after.               

President and CEO Danny Ludeman said these people are usually dealing with a variety of issues, like mental health, substance use disorders, lack of education and even limited housing options.

Unlike other programs that tend to focus on one of these issues, Concordance is seen as a one-stop help for ex-cons.

“Our goal is to reduce the horrific number, which is why this all started, is that 77 percent of people coming out of prison return in about a five year period and it’s been that way for 30 years. So the goal is to reduce that by a third,” Ludeman said.

Yolanda Baker is one of the current participants. Baker said she was in prison for three years for stealing.

She said the academy is needed in the St. Louis region.

“We need stuff like this when you come out from being incarcerated, we need things to be able to keep us maintained and focused on what we need to do and Concordance, is there for us through everything,” Baker said.

Baker is hoping the program will help her better her daughter’s life, which studies have shown can be affected when a parent is incarcerated.

“It’s a source issue in the sense that there are 10 million children during a child’s lifetime who will have either one or both parents incarcerated. Those children have a 70 percent chance of going to prison themselves. So if we can help this population, unify families then that lowers that risk on children,” Ludeman said.

The academy is still in its early stages, in fact, its first participants have yet to complete the 18 months.

If the program is proven effective, the academy hopes to develop a pay for performance contract with the state.

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