has announced gifts totaling $7 million to launch a criminal justice reform center in its .
The gifts — $3.5 million each over five years from the and — will establish the Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center, enabling legal scholars to undertake independent research on a range of topics, including the causes of wrongful convictions and over-incarceration and ways to ensure the fair and ethical treatment of individuals at all stages of the criminal justice process. The center also will serve as a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration among different groups, including scholars, students, the judiciary, law enforcement, prosecutors, and defense counsel.
"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," said Jennifer Collins, the Judge James Noel Dean of the law school. "This new center will work well with our existing criminal clinic and innocence clinic and build on our existing faculty strength in criminal law."
Darwin Deason, board chair of Deason Capital Services and the Deason Foundation, gave $7.75 million gift to the in 2014. "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 his son, Doug Deason, who helped coordinate the foundation's gift. "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."