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St. Charles County puts up money to help ex-cons stay out of prison

St. Charles County has provided funding to support a St. Louis regional initiative to help prevent former prison inmates from returning behind bars.

The County Council voted 6-0 at its Jan. 25 meeting to appropriate $100,000 this year, and possibly for the next two years, to support Concordance Academy of Leadership, which is leading the initiative.  Councilman Dave Hammond [District 4] was absent. The academy was recently formed from Project Cope, a longtime nonprofit that worked closely with released prisoners.

The first $100,000 appropriation will be made from the county’s 2016 budget and will provide services to help at least six ex-convicts per year.  Those services will include education, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, employment and job training and housing.

County Executive Steve Ehlmann said that appropriations for 2017 and 2018 are subject to approval by the council as part of the county budget each year.

Danny Ludeman, former chief executive officer and president of Wells Fargo Advisors, has been the driving force behind the initiative. Last April, Ludeman announced the formation of Concordance Academy of Leadership as an outgrowth of Project Cope and the Concordance Institute of Advanced Social Justice.

The announcement was made at the Missouri History Museum with Ehlmann and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger in attendance, along with representatives from prominent public and private organizations.

Ehlmann told the council at its Jan. 11 meeting, during which the county’s appropriation bill was introduced, that he would ask for $100,000 for each of the next three years. A similar contribution was made by the city of St. Louis and $300,000 also may come from St. Louis County, he said. The effort has raised nearly $9 million.

That level of fundraising may prompt the academy to support more than six local people each year, according to Ehlmann.

“My guess is they’ll take two or three or four times that many because they have quite a bit of additional funding through voluntary contributions,” he said.

Ludeman is now chief executive officer and president of the academy. The Brown School of Social Work at Washington University will operate the institute, which will provide research.

Ludeman and local officials are concerned because often more than half of men and women released from prison are rearrested within five years or end up incarcerated again. The first classes for released inmates began in December and January.

Joann Leycam, the county’s director of administration, told the council at its Jan. 11 meeting that the program’s focus will largely be on long-term inmates, for whom entry back into society is not easy.

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