Umphrey Lee Cenotaph, Dedman School of Law quad, SMUSMU’s Dedman School of Law is poised to become a hub of research and education on issues related to criminal justice reform.

The Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center will be a place for scholars to undertake independent research and develop educational opportunities on topics such as the causes of wrongful convictions and over-incarceration, and ensuring the fair and ethical treatment of individuals at all stages of the criminal justice process.

The new center is supported by combined gifts totaling $7 million from the Deason Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation. The gifts will provide $3.5 million each over a period of five years.

“The support from the Deason Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation for this center goes right to the heart of what a great university like SMU is positioned to do in finding solutions to societal problems,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prison population, so there’s work to be done. Dedman Law is eager to engage in the important national debate surrounding issues of fairness, accuracy and compassion in the criminal justice system.”

> The Dallas Morning NewsDeason and Koch give $7 million to SMU Dedman Law for criminal justice reform

Jennifer Collins, the Judge James Noel Dean and Professor of Law at Dedman School of Law, served as assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia from 1994 to 2002 and is well positioned to anticipate the impact of the Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center.

“Policy makers across the ideological spectrum are talking about the need for criminal justice reform,” Collins said. “From the adequacy of defense counsel, to police uses of force, to wrongful convictions and the racial disparities in the criminal justice system – these are the huge issues of our time. This new center will work well with our existing criminal clinic and innocence clinic, and build on our existing faculty strength in criminal law.”

The Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center will provide a platform for important interdisciplinary collaboration among many different groups, including scholars, students, the judiciary, law enforcement, prosecutors, and defense counsel. By bringing together experts from across the country to participate in symposia and conferences, the center will engage in national conversations surrounding criminal justice.

“Our passion for criminal justice reform is based on our desire to create and support programs that help lift the poor from poverty, to help them become self-dependent and, consequently, support their families and live their lives with dignity,” said Doug Deason. “Because the problems with our criminal justice system are so complex and deeply rooted, a collaborative, thoughtful approach is essential. This new Criminal Justice Reform Center will offer the research required to find innovative solutions, and we are very proud to support it.”

“Finding solutions to the problems with our criminal justice system will require the sort of leading-edge scholarship that the faculty at SMU produce. This is an issue that separates families, divides communities, and gets to the heart of how our society treats people in their most difficult hour. The Deason Center scholars can make a major difference and we’re proud to partner with the Deason family and SMU on this initiative,” said Charles Koch Foundation President Brian Hooks.

The gifts to fund the Deason Family Criminal Justice Center in Dedman School of Law count toward SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which concluded on Dec. 31, 2015 and raised more than $1 billion to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience.

“The overarching goal of our Second Century Campaign has been to build an extraordinary platform for research and learning at SMU,” said Brad Cheves, vice president for Development and External Affairs. “The Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center will support important learning experiences for our students, and, we believe, equally important societal changes. We are grateful for the opportunity this provides us.”

> Read the full story from SMU News