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 address the key reentry needs and challenges faced by formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, to introduce system reforms, and to improve local conditions that presented barriers to reentry success” (p.1).
“To understand whether the Safer Return demonstration met its intended goals, Urban [Institute] researchers designed a quasi-experimental outcome and impact evaluation. [The researchers] selected a comparison community, West Englewood, and collected multiple waves of survey data from community residents, former prisoners, and their family members in both communities. [The researchers] also examined program and cost data from the agencies providing services to Safer Return participants. In addition, [they] analyzed administrative records from the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Employment Security to examine two-year reincarceration and employment outcomes for Safer Return participants and nonparticipant comparison groups in Garfield Park and West Englewood” (p.vii).
“This research report—the second of two final reports from the Urban Institute’s evaluation of the Safer Return demonstration—describes the findings of an outcome, impact, and cost evaluation based on a quasi-experimental design” (p.1).(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)
Major Findings & Recommendations
The report sums up its findings as follows: “Despite its implementation challenges, Safer Return was able to improve reentry outcomes for individuals returning to Garfield Park from state prison relative to comparison groups, though not as much as had been hoped for. The lessons we can learn from Safer Return’s implementation successes and challenges, and how those successes and challenges were related to outcomes and impacts, will no doubt prove useful for those planning future reentry programming efforts” (p.x-xi). The report also highlights a number of smaller findings related to services and outcomes, including the following: • “Safer Return participants received significantly more services than comparisons, including many services that were consistent with the program model, such as a reentry plan in prison, a case reentry plan after release, and referrals for reentry-related services” (p.viii). • “Safer Return participants were significantly more likely to report legal employment immediately after release and four months later, and were significantly less likely to report illicit drug use” (p. viii). • “Safer Return participants had the lowest rate of return to state prison within two years in comparison to nonparticipant parolees in Garfield Park and West Englewood. This difference is statistically significant in comparison to nonparticipants in Garfield Park, but is not statistically significant in comparison to West Englewood parolees” (p.ix). • “Significant differences in rates of return to state prison were largely driven by differences in technical violations. Safer Return participants were significantly less likely to be returned for a technical violation within two years than nonparticipants in West Englewood and Garfield Park” (p.ix). • “There were no significant differences between any of the comparison groups in the rate or number of reoffenses within two years after controlling for available demographic, criminal history, and conditions-of-release information” (p.ix). • “Safer Return participants were significantly more likely to have had any postrelease employment than nonparticipant parolees in Garfield Park and West Englewood. They also earned significantly higher wages and found employment the quickest” (p.x). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)