Brown School’s Pettus-Davis to lead research arm of new prisoner reentry initiative

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.


On April 29, Danny Ludeman, former CEO of Wells Fargo Advisors, announced the launch the Concordance Academy of Leadership, which will offer comprehensive integrated and holistic services to men and women returning to the community from prison. Ludeman will serve as CEO and president of the academy.

Pettus-Davis will lead the Concordance Institute for Advancing Social Justice, the research partner of the academy, which will be based at the Brown School.

The work of the Concordance Institute will focus on accelerating the feedback loop of research, practice and policy engagement, which in traditional contexts takes years to occur.

The institute will conduct rigorous real-world research to better understand factors that dramatically reduce the cycle of incarceration. The Concordance Institute’s efforts also will include innovation of sophisticated services designed for criminal justice-involved adults and the development of evidence-driven public policy statements.

“This initiative comes at a time when, for the first time in over 40 years, there is bipartisan political will, fiscal support and moral resolve to address our incarceration problem in this country,” said Pettus-Davis, an expert on the decarceration of American prisons and jails.

“The academy and institute have developed an aggressive and innovative plan to identify the changes needed in our culture and system that will positively shift the well-being of the nation, as well as the individuals, families and communities impacted by this issue,” she said.

Pettus-Davis serves as faculty director of the Decarceration Initiative at the Brown School’s Center for Social Development, which has supported her paper, From Mass Incarceration to Smart Decarceration, written with Matt Epperson of the University of Chicago. The paper has been selected at the national level by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare’s Grand Challenges Initiative.

An expansion of the St. Louis-based nonprofit Project COPE, the Concordance Academy will offer services such as education and job-readiness, employment, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, cognitive and life skills education, housing, life in the community and care coordination.

According to the United States Department of Justice, more than 95 percent of state and federal prisoners eventually will be released back to communities, equating to 600,000 individuals being released from prison each year across the United States.

Within three years, approximately 69 percent of men and 58 percent of women will be re-arrested at least once.

Missouri ranks as the 10th-highest incarcerating state in the country. According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, among all people released from Missouri prisons, more than half will return within five years.

“It is our hope that other communities will mirror our approach and model in order to dramatically reduce re-incarceration on a national level to restore the lives of thousands of individuals,” Ludeman said.

To learn more about the Concordance Academy and its services, visit To learn more about the Concordance Institute and its research, visit