Home with a Purpose: A History of the Safe Return Project



Safe Return helped to heighten the city’s awareness of the unique needs for the re-entry population and the potential consequences of not meeting these needs... If the purpose of Safe Return is to ensure that the formerly incarcerated are involved in solutions, they have remained steadfast, they continue to have a consistent voice and speak out against power structures, they remain steadfast in their mission.


AS OUR NATION EXPERIMENTS with new policies on crime and incarceration, there continues to be a pressing need for communities to find better ways of helping individuals coming out of prison and jail. This has created an opportunity for re-imagining and restructuring the justice system. Yet too often, people who have directly experienced incarceration are left out. How are the voices of people who have seen the inside included in this historic opportunity for change? Over the past five years, the Safe Return project has remained true to its goal of including those with experience inside in helping create the programs and policies that can ensure formerly incarcerated individuals receive the supports they need to succeed. 

While most of the individuals involved noted that the work was more challenging than they had anticipated, and while the project has struggled with funding challenges, no one expressed any regrets about getting involved. Safe Return taught leadership and advocacy skills to its members, and continues to provide Richmond with a committed and skilled group of activists who are passionate about contributing to their community and working on issues that they have a stake in. Most participants stress the importance of the project for the broader community. Many of those outside the project echo this sentiment. Sincere efforts to reform the criminal justice system in cities like Richmond, California, and the kind of visionary leadership the Safe Return Project has demonstrated in this process, offer real hope for both current residents and generations to come.