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SLU, Collins Honored for Work with Ex-Offenders


The Center for Women in Transition, a St. Louis organization dedicated to supporting women ex-offenders post-incarceration, have honored Saint Louis University and Christopher Collins, S.J., assistant to the president for mission and identity, for SLU's work helping people make new lives beyond prison.

Christopher Collins, S.J.

Christopher Collins, S.J., assistant to the president for mission and identity, accepted the award on Saturday, April 18. SLU photo

Collins accepted the organization’s Community Impact Award at its Resilient: A Beautiful Transformation 2020 Virtual Gala and Auction on Saturday, April 18.

The center honored the University and Collins for their commitment to helping people build new lives post-incarceration through SLU’s Restorative Justice Initiative.

“This award really goes the varied faculty from different colleges and schools within the university who work so intently with those who have been incarcerated,” Collins said. “From doing occupational therapy for people in the city jails in order to strengthen life skills for thriving upon release to finding employment for folks post inception, to treating people medically in the county jail to assistance in court through our legal clinics to providing a SLU undergraduate education on the inside of the state prison at Bonne Terre, different faculty and staff have organically stepped up in so many ways to serve people in this situation for years.”

“These faculty and staff at SLU live out this mission so eloquently and passionately. It makes me proud to be their colleague,” he continued.

SLU’s prison-specific initiatives and programs collaborate with a number of community and governmental partners including the Center for Women in Transition (CWT).

The Transformative Justice Initiative is an interprofessional, collaborative program that employs community-based participatory research to guide evidence-informed transformative justice solutions.

SLU’s Prison Program is a Jesuit-inspired initiative that provides access to high-quality liberal arts education for people who are incarcerated and prison staff. More than 4,500 people have participated in the program since 2008.

Researchers like the late Norm White, Ph.D., have spearheaded efforts to break the school-to-prison pipeline, work continued by students through groups like the Overground Railroad to Literacy.

University faculty, departments, schools and colleges have also partnered with local governments including the City of St. Louis to help people leaving prison re-enter society successfully by allowing them to access SLU expertise and resources. The University and its Chaifetz Arena, together with partners, have also hosted career fairs helping ex-offenders network with future employers.

“It really does take a vast network of support to help people overcome so much trauma and so many obstacles in life, but there are also so many stories of hope and healing that come out of this work. It is really edifying to learn about it all,” Collins said.

Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of more than 13,000 students on campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of now more than 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications.