Experience Together

Sister received honorary doctorate

Sister Carleen Reck received an honorary doctorate from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis.Sister Carleen Reck received an honorary doctorate degree from the Aquinas Institute of Theology on May 12 at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis. She received the Doctorate of Humane Letters for her work as the executive director of the Criminal Justice Ministry (CJM), from which she retired in July 2016.

Sister Carleen’s work at CJM has been recognized as a national model for reducing recidivism among high risk and needy parolees. In the last fiscal year, CJM impacted over 23,000 individuals both inside area prisons and jails and throughout the St. Louis community. “We can look at the numbers of those she has helped rehabilitate,” said Missouri Department of Corrections Director George Lombardi, “but we will never know the true amount of crime and victimization she has helped prevent. The City of St. Louis owes her unlimited gratitude.”

Sister Carleen was one of three recipients to receive the honorary degree at Aquinas’s 2017 commencement ceremony. Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P., received the award for his work teaching and campaigning for human rights in Latin America. William R. Brinkmann received the award for his work with the Navy and healthcare industry. Read more about the awards. 

About the Criminal Justice Ministry

Started in 1979, CJM programs address four basic needs in and out of prison: the need for human connection while incarcerated, basic needs once released, long-term help with community engagement and collaboration within the St. Louis area to provide clients a better chance for success. Both men and women are assisted, but men more often lack a support system when released from prison.

Once released, many have no family or friends to offer shelter or basic clothing. CJM fills this void by providing welcome backpacks loaded with personal hygiene items, underwear, socks, medications, bus tickets and vital papers, such as birth certificates and personal identification. Nearly 2,500 backpacks were provided in 2014-2015 to recently released prisoners.

CJM’s flagship program, Release to Rent, provides men who have served long sentences with furnished small apartments scattered throughout the community, as opposed to crowded halfway houses. The program also helps these men become good neighbors and tenants. Case managers support the Release to Rent program through weekly support groups and overall guidance, in addition to the apartment, food and bus passes to help going to and from their jobs.

The Release to Rent program has seen tremendous success, as fewer than 10 percent of clients return to the Department of Corrections. Despite working with some of the toughest cases and clients, no member of the community has been victimized by one of the program participants.

Learn more about CJM.

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