Out of the Box: How a Culture Changed
In the spring of 2000, the federal judges of the Eastern District of Missouri selected Doug Burris as the new chief probation officer and charged him with reversing a potentially dangerous trend: At the time, the district exceeded by 30 percent the national federal average for parole revocations. Burris began with three goals: diversify the office (it employed only two African-American officers despite the fact that 75 percent of the clients were black); start a jobs program (70 percent of failed parolees were unemployed); and offer cognitive-skills therapy to help ex-offenders learn how to make better choices. After overcoming some initial resistance by senior staff, Burris has helped transform the district into the model for a successful supervised-release program. “Out of the Box” – which features narration by Stacy Keach – tells the personal stories behind these innovations, including the unprecedented hiring of an ex-con, Clark Porter, to serve as a program support specialist in the office. “Out of the Box” is the final project of longtime Hollywood screenwriter and Lindenwood U. faculty member Rift Fournier, who completed the film just before his death in October.