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SMU announces Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center in Dedman School of Law

New center, supported by $7 million in gifts, to conduct innovative research and educational programs to address need for reforms in US criminal justice system

April 26, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU is launching the new Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center in its Dedman School of Law, where scholars will 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.

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The center will be 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.”

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 December 31 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.” 

THE DEASON FOUNDATION AND DARWIN DEASON

The Deason Foundation supports Christian agencies and churches, education and medical research.

Darwin Deason is the founder of Affiliated Computer Systems, launched in 1988 to handle business processes for clients such as E-ZPass, 7-Eleven, United Parcel Service (UPS), the City of Dallas and numerous state and federal agencies. Serving in a variety of executive positions, including as chairman of the board and CEO, Deason took the company public in 1994 and sold it to Xerox for $6.4 billion in 2010. At the time of the acquisition, ACS employed 85,000 people in over 100 countries.

Previously, Deason worked for the data-processing firm MTech, where he was promoted to CEO at the age of 29. Before joining MTech, Deason worked in data processing for Gulf Oil in Tulsa, having started there as a mail clerk.

Deason is chairman of Deason Capital Services (DCS) and chairman of the Deason Foundation. Deason's son, Doug Deason, president of DCS and president of the Deason Foundation, helped coordinate the foundation’s gift to Dedman Law.

Deason made a $7.75 million gift to the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering in 2014 that launched the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security and supported the Deason Innovation Gym.

Deason was born in Rogers, Ark., and is married to Katerina Panos Deason. Several members of Deason’s family have SMU connections: Deason’s son, Doug, is married to Holly, who is an alumna. Doug’s son, Preston, and Holly’s son and daughter, Lance and Fallon, all currently attend SMU.

THE CHARLES KOCH FOUNDATION

Founded in 1980, the Charles Koch Foundation’s giving supports universities and other non-profit organizations exploring the institutions that foster societal well-being. Through its giving, the Charles Koch Foundation aims to advance an understanding of how free societies improve the well-being of people around the world.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls approximately 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.

The School of Law at SMU was founded in 1925. It was named Dedman School of Law in 2001 in honor of Dallas benefactors Nancy and Robert H. Dedman, Sr., and their family. SMU Dedman Law enjoys a national and international reputation of distinction. It is among the most competitive law schools in the country for admission, as well as one of the most successful in the placement of its graduates.

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