Reports on an evaluation of the Safer Returns Demonstration, which offered comprehensive services to formerly incarcerated individuals in the Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago, including lessons learned and recommendations.

Funded by the MacArthur Foundation and offered to the reentry population in the East and West Garfield Park neighborhoods of Chicago from 2008 to 2013, the Safer Returns Demonstration “was intended to focus on promoting successful reentry and reintegration by (1) addressing key individual needs, (2) introducing system reforms, and (3) improving local (community) conditions” (p.VI). The demonstration included “comprehensive family-inclusive case management, prerelease and postrelease transitional planning, housing, mentoring, physical and mental health treatment, and substance abuse treatment” as well as “skills to enhance employability, transitional employment opportunities, and job placement” (p.VI). The program used “neighborhood-based parole agents, graduated sanctioning, and reward practices to reduce reincarceration for technical violations” (p.VI).

 “Based on a thorough process evaluation, this research report describes the implementation of the Safer Return demonstration, including how specific program elements were conceptualized and operated; what worked from the perspectives of stakeholders, program participants, and researchers; and challenges that gave rise to program modifications. The report concludes with lessons learned and recommendations for future reentry initiatives” (p.VII).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Full publication title: Safer Return Demonstration: Implementation Findings from a Research-Based Community Reentry Initiative

Major Findings & Recommendations

“In the end, from April 2008 through January 2013, Safer Return engaged 727 individuals in a suite of community-based services by working with various criminal justice and community-based partners. It succeeded in creating new opportunities for participants; linking them to services, jobs, and prosocial activities; forging new connections between community-based partners assisting the reentry population, including a strong relationship with the parole department; and working within the challenging criminal justice context. The outcomes, impacts, and cost-effectiveness of these efforts are discussed in the second final report of the evaluation. This report’s discussion of Safer Return’s implementation successes and challenges provides important context for those findings” (p.IX). “Based on the overall implementation of Safer Return and, specifically, the challenges the program faced, there are three lessons learned from its implementation that are critical for building stronger reentry efforts fashioned after Safer Return (that is, efforts that are expected to be comprehensive and multifaceted). These lessons concern the importance of (1) being flexible and responsive to changing policy and political landscapes, (2) being sensitive to differences in organizational structures and hierarchies, and (3) understanding potential trade-offs in comprehensiveness versus cohesiveness” (p.84). (Abstractor: Author)