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Safe Return Initiative

The Safe Return Initiative (SRI) was created by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women to confront the myriad challenges facing African-Americans as previously incarcerated men reunite with their families. SRI provides technical assistance and support to grantees of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative, a federal effort that addresses reentry strategies for populations of serious, high-risk offenders. SRI's technical assistance entails community education, training, and on-site assistance to criminal justice professionals and community- and faith-based organizations. Efforts are focused on helping these grantees confront the obstacles that prevent the successful reunification of newly released prisoners and families in their communities, while decreasing the vulnerability of such families to domestic violence. Specifically, these efforts include the following:

  • Training parole officers, corrections officers, faith leaders, employment specialists, domestic violence advocates, and others toward refining their roles in addressing domestic violence among African-American ex-offenders;
  • Facilitating conversations to promote a comprehensive, coordinated, community-specific approach to victim safety and offender accountability;
  • Providing tailored, on-site assistance to professional groups toward helping them understand their role in preventing and intervening in domestic violence; and
  • Identifying lessons learned that grantees can share with peers in other jurisdictions.

SRI was initially launched as a partnership between the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community (IDVAAC) and the Vera Institute of Justice, which lent its expertise in solidifying the knowledge base regarding prisoner re-entry issues. The initiative is now an IDVAAC-led program, as dictated by a shifting focus to prioritize domestic violence prevention and intervention efforts while providing technical assistance to federal grantees around such issues.

Visit the Safe Return Intiative Website for more information
Visit our dedicated Safe Return website at www.idvaac.org/SRI to view additional information.


IDVAAC has several products, such as DVDs and reports, to disseminate insightful information and promising practices gathered through roundtable discussions, focus groups, interviews and other Safe Return Initiative activities. These resources offer the perspectives of domestic violence practitioners, parole and corrections professionals, battered women, and ex-offenders to present first-hand, practical knowledge on how to effectively serve battered women and their families as their current or former partners return to the community. Products are designed to educate service providers in the corrections and domestic violence fields, as well as other service providers and stakeholders who serve this population.


Safe Return Initiative: From the Prison to the Community 
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Safe Return Initiative: Building Bridges
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SRI Roundtable Brief
During the initial phase of the Safe Return Initiative, IDVAAC in partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice conducted a roundtable discussion with representatives from re-entry programs in Nashville, Tennessee; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Portland, Oregon. These programs are unique because of their attention to the safety needs of women in relationships with men in prison and on parole. This report summarizes these sites’ descriptions of their work, what they perceive as challenges and what they believe can enhance their efforts.


Safe Return: Phase 1 Report 2003-2005
Oliver Williams, Ph.D.
Most efforts to address re-entry have focused on the influence of unemployment, substance abuse, and inadequate housing on prisoners’ post-release success. To date, limited attention has been given to the connection between domestic violence and criminal recidivism. This report highlights Safe Return Initiative training efforts in Minnesota to address the important, yet understudied intersection of prisoner re-entry and domestic violence.


Domestic Violence and Prisoner Reentry: Experiences of African American Women and Men
Creasie Finney Hairston and William Oliver
This report recommends ways to address domestic violence when African American women are in intimate relationships with African American men who are in prison or on parole. The report draws on discussion groups of men and women dealing with reentry who were asked how similarly situated people experience and manage conflict with their partners. Through these discussions, Safe Return found that some women believe the experience of imprisonment negatively influences some men's behavior as husbands and fathers after release; men reported that some similarly situated men try to control their intimate partners while inside prison or consider violence to be an appropriate response to infidelity or perceived slights. The recommendations include emphasizing cultural competence in programming and providing institutional support to intimate partners and their children who are preparing for an incarcerated person's return, whether or not they choose to reunify with returning prisoners.


Safe Return: Working Toward Preventing Domestic Violence When Men Return From Prison
Mike Bobbitt, Robin Campbell, and Gloria L. Tate
Corrections and parole officials and domestic violence advocates met in two roundtable discussions to examine ways to address intimate partner violence when men return from prison. This report summarizes the practices and key challenges identified in those meetings and addresses themes such as institutional resistance to addressing domestic violence, ways to involve intimate partners-including women who may have been victims of domestic violence-in reentry planning, and the value of cultural competence and programming that considers race. Participants expressed a need for training and ongoing dialogue between criminal justice staff and domestic violence advocates, and noted the value of including the perspectives of former victims to improve practice.


The Front Line: Building Programs that Recognize Families' Role in Reentry
Mike Bobbitt and Marta Nelson
People leaving prison often turn to their families for assistance. These families become the "front line" of reentry, providing people coming home with critical emotional and material support. But criminal justice systems have only recently begun to engage families in the transition. This Issue in Brief examines the trend towards providing family-focused reentry programming in prison and in the community, highlights ways that jurisdictions can and are structuring such efforts, and addresses the challenges involved. As an example of programming that engages family in reentry, the paper discusses the family reintegration program of Project Greenlight, a prison-based pilot program operated by Vera in partnership with the New York State Department of Correctional Services and the New York State division of Parole.


Justice and Safety for All: Promoting Dialogue Between Public Defenders and Victim Advocates
Jennifer trone, Lori Crowder, and Chandra Yoder
The lawyers who defend individuals charged with domestic violence and the advocates who work just as passionately for the rights and needs of victims tend to fall into opposing camps. Misunderstanding, suspicion, and occasionally open hostility exist between these professionals. Yet because defenders and advocates often serve the same families, improving their relationship is part of providing just and safe resolutions in domestic violence cases. Structured dialogue between defenders and advocates can help them understand each others' roles and perspectives and can lead to mutual respect and cooperation. Filled with the voices of a handful of defenders and advocates talking about each other and their work, Justice and Safety for All is written to help other advocates and defenders begin their own conversations.




Prisoner Reentry & Domestic Violence: 
Supporting Battered Women Whose Partners Are on 
Community Supervision or Parole

Presenters: Ashley Brown, Shelia Hankins, Joleen Jones, and Oliver J. Williams, PhD

When men are sent to prison many people forget that most return back to the communities and families they left. Each year over 650,000 men are released from prison back to the community. Although intimate partner violence may not be the reason for their incarceration, it is often the reason for their parole revocation and the charge for returning to prison. In reentry planning, female partners, particularly battered women, have few supports connecting them to safety, services, and support when he returns. Domestic violence advocates are critical to assisting battered women who previously or still maintain a relationship with these men. This presentation will focus on what domestic violence advocates and battered women in this situation have relayed about how help is defined and what should be done to identify and assist them in the context of intimate partner violence.

November 21, 2008

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Domestic Violence and Prisoner Reentry: 
Experiences of African American Women and Men Webcast

June 12, 2008 
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Pacific /2:00 to 3:30 P.M. Eastern

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