Deason Center Receives Grant from Chrest Foundation

October 28, 2020



Grant will provide general operating funds to support research, including two key projects to expand work in criminal justice reform

DALLAS (SMU) – The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the Chrest Foundation for general operating funds to support prosecution reform research in Dallas County and research the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in rural Texas. Established by Jeff Jensen and Lou Anne King Jensen in 1999, the Chrest Foundation supports the development and adoption of evidence-based policies that are driven by robust data and amplified by advocacy efforts, and is particularly interested in generating and disseminating best practices that can be applied and replicated throughout the country.

“We are very grateful for the Chrest Foundation’s generous support of the Deason Center’s work,” said Dean Jennifer Collins, SMU Dedman School of Law. “This grant will not only help the Center support research into statewide access to counsel in Texas’ criminal cases, but will also promote the study of effective prosecutorial reform policies.”

Specifically, the Deason Center will expand its work in two critical areas:

Local Prosecutorial Reform: After decades of tough-on-crime policies, our criminal justice narrative has shifted to a widely shared view that the current system is untenable, costly, and ineffective. The Deason Center's partnership with the Dallas District Attorney's Office explores how new prosecution policies can improve public safety and advance equity in Dallas’ criminal justice system.

The Right to Counsel in Texas’s Small Town, Tribal, and Rural (STAR) Communities: In Texas’ legal deserts – places where attorneys are scarce – the Sixth Amendment’s promise of the right to counsel can be difficult to fulfill. The Deason Center is using quantitative and qualitative methods to determine whether, and to what extent, the establishment of a regional public defender office or a managed assigned counsel program improves access to appointed counsel in criminal cases. At the conclusion of the study, the Center will make concrete recommendations about how to better honor the Sixth Amendment in Texas’ criminal courts.

“The Deason Center brings a stats and stories approach to criminal justice reform. By combining data-driven research with the individual stories of those impacted by the criminal legal system, our Stats and Stories make a compelling case for compassionate criminal justice reform,” said Pamela R. Metzger, Director of the Deason Center. “This funding will significantly expand the Deason Center’s ability to advocate for criminal justice reform in Texas and to develop best practice models for systems across the nation.”


About The Chrest Foundation

The Chrest Foundation is a private foundation based in Irving, Texas. The Foundation was established by Jeff Jensen and Lou Anne King Jensen in 1999 to share with others some of the financial resources they had been fortunate enough to receive through family related business investments. The word “Chrest” was chosen as the name of the Foundation due to its general meaning of “goodwill.” The Foundation works on the principles of goodwill and friendship in its relations with domestic and international communities.

About the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center

The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law brings a stats and stories approach to criminal justice reform. By collecting, analyzing, and assessing data, the Deason Center identifies criminal justice policy and reform needs. Combining these statistics with the stories of those who live, work and struggle in our criminal justice system, the Deason Center makes a compelling case for smart, compassionate, and sustainable criminal justice reform. The Deason Center helps criminal justice stakeholders develop and implement best practices and supports data-driven criminal justice research that have utility across multiple jurisdictions. Through conferences, symposia, colloquia, roundtables, and working groups, the Deason Center fosters collaborations between scholars, criminal justice researchers and criminal justice stakeholders. The Deason Center also educates SMU students about criminal justice issues and provides students with academic and experiential opportunities to work in criminal justice policy and reform.

About SMU Dedman School of Law

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.