May 07 2013

Richmond, California’s Safe Return Project Inspires Change

How can we most effectively prevent crime? America has invested a lot of money in its prison system. In fact, the FY 2013 budget requests $8.6 billion for federal prisons and detentions according to the US Department of Justice.

However, there is a different, more contemporary thought process that does not agree with this type of spending. Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin is quoted saying, “You need to invest in people, not prisons.” This idea is the driving force behind the Safe Return Project, an initiative led by formerly incarcerated Richmond residents working to help ex-prisoners reintegrate back into society.

Safe Return Team Richmond, California The Safe Return

Thousands of Richmond residents who have been released from prison struggle to find work. Minorities, particularly Latinos and African-Americans, are disproportionately affected by a harmful incarceration cycle. Two-thirds of residents going to prison have already been before.

Frankly, having your neighbors cycle in and out of prison is not conducive to creating a healthy or sustainable community.  How can you help a neighborhood grow if you cannot get hired or find a place to live? The Safe Return Project works to create policies that will provide the necessary resources to these people so they can get back on their feet.

Jonathan Perez is 19-year-old Richmond resident who works on the Project. About a year-and-a-half ago, he was in prison and decided upon his release that he wanted to take his life in a different direction. He succeeded and is now helping others do the same.  In an article from the San Ramon Express he states, “I’m living proof that if you give people the opportunity, they will change.”

Jonny Perez Richmond, California The Safe Return

The system in place creates a vicious cycle for those who got off to a rough start. If you were born into unfortunate circumstance or made a bad choice somewhere along the way, it is difficult to bring yourself back to a place of opportunity. The victims of this cycle formed the Safe Return Project so they could share their experiences and prevent others from having to undergo the same hardships.

What effective community planning projects do you know of in your neighborhood?

Credits: Image courtesy of The Safe Return Facebook page and the Richmond Confidential. Data linked to sources.

Rob Poole

Rob Poole graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Anthropology and a minor in City and Regional Planning. He grew up in San Diego, but now resides in San Francisco. He currently works at a non-profit organization in San Francisco that advocates for new housing development for all income levels in the City. He also interns with Streetsblog San Francisco. Rob plans to pursue a career that promotes civic engagement in cities and improves the public process for local governments.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 at 9:26 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Education and Careers, Government/Politics, Robert Poole, Social/Demographics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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One Response to “Richmond, California’s Safe Return Project Inspires Change”

  1. Willie Right Wrong Says:

    Just was curious would it be a conflict of interest for Lavern Vaughn which was just hired as Peace Keeper for the Office of Nieborhood Safety to also work for Safe Return Projects

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