This Convocation that kicks off Centre’s annual Poverty and Homelessness Week focuses on the intersections between class, race, addiction, mental illness and mass incarceration in Kentucky. Many students and faculty began the year reading Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. This year’s Poverty and Homelessness Week continues that emphasis with a week-long series of events highlighting the prison system in the U.S.–the nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. Steve Durham, Assistant Director of Louisville Metro Department of Corrections will present us with a local perspective on how poverty, race, mental illness, and addiction influence incarceration, especially for those in pre-trial detention. Durham will prod his audience to think about how policies and practices can be changed to lessen incarceration for people experiencing the aforementioned realities without increased risks to public safety.

Speaker Biography

Steve Durham is a Brandeis School of Law graduate, a graduate of the Jail Executive Development Program, and a 2018 Leadership Louisville Bingham Fellow. Since 2015, he has served as Assistant Director of the large and challenging Louisville Metro Department of Corrections.

Steve began his career in Justice representing men and women charged with street crimes.  Over 25 times, he waited with a client for a jury to return a verdict in criminal cases, from drug crimes to homicide.

After some time defending justice officials, he was appointed General Counsel for the Kentucky Department of Corrections representing Corrections Professionals in significant cases in State and Federal courtrooms across the Commonwealth.  While serving the Kentucky Department of Corrections he was instrumental in developing legislation including the Kentucky’s Prison Litigation Reform Act, the restructure of capital case sentencing options, creation of the Sex Offender Registration Act, and Kentucky’s Violent Offender sentence scheme. 

Steve also had an active Appellate practice, engaging in oral arguments before judges in the Kentucky Court of Appeals, the Kentucky Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that resulted in published opinions on significant legal issues from double jeopardy to sovereign immunity.

Steve and his wife Ruth raised two children: Drake, and Grant.  They are an active tennis family.  Ruth and Steve have been involved in the National Alliance for Mentally Ill – Family to Family program.