Safer Return

Safer Return: A Community-Based Re-entry Initiative was a multi-year demonstration project aimed at building, implementing, and learning from a community-focused prisoner reentry model in the East Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Safer Return clients participated in snow removal on State Street as part of a partnership between Safer and the Chicago Loop Alliance.

The founding principle of Safer Return was that the entire community must be engaged and prepared to positively impact prisoner reentry and reduce recidivism.

Through the collaborative efforts of community members, law enforcement, service providers, businesses, and participants, Safer Return aimed to:

  • Develop an innovative approach to prisoner reentry and comprehensively address the transitional needs of both the returning clients and their community
  • Build the capacity of institutions and communities to facilitate a smooth journey home from prison
  • Reform institutions to promote an enhanced response to returning clients by the justice system, service providers, and the business community.


Click link to view report: Framework for Safer Return: A Research-Based Community Initiative

Safer Return was made possible by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The program was led by Safer Foundation, evaluated by the Urban Institute, and guided by a National Advisory Board and a local Community Board.

Components of Safer Return Model:

Welcome Home Panels: Beginning in prison, community members and parole officers visited clients (face-to-face or via videoconferencing) to begin reentry planning. Everyone returning from Illinois state prisons to East Garfield Park had the opportunity to enroll in this program.

Reentry Planning/Coordination: The reentry coaching case management was ongoing and provided guidance and support to the clients. It also helped coordinate resources, appropriate services, and maintain client accountability, with an overall goal of self-sufficiency. At this level, reentry coaches provided family inclusive case management.

Click link to view report: Community Ties, Public Safety and Reentry: Residents’ Perspectives

Employment: Safer Return focused on both immediate and long-term employment. Civic Community Works provided transitional employment through supportive work crews concentrating on community improvement efforts and hard-skills training. Employment developers targeted the greater Chicago area’s job market and provided a variety of sustainable employment opportunities.

Mentoring/Stages of Reentry: A group mentoring/peer support structure, led by successful formerly incarcerated individuals and community volunteers, supported participants during their stages of reentry.

Community Parole: Through Safer Return, the Illinois Department of Corrections provided specially trained, community-based parole officers who partnered with Safer Return coaches.

Click link to view report: Interim Reincarceration Outcomes of Safer Return

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