Imagine what it would feel like if you were removed from society because of impactful decisions you made many years ago, then released after 24 years. How you would put your life together with nothing but $40 in your pocket and a stigma that follows you for life?
Nearly 8,000 people released from Washington prisons next year will transition home with layers of trauma and stigmatization, encountering barriers at every turn. And within 5 years, nearly half of those individuals will be reincarcerated.
For nearly 18 years, Freedom Project has been supporting community building, healing and connection inside Washington State prisons and has helped nearly 7,000 people prepare to reunite with their families, children and community before they are released. We’ve seen amazing results. A peer-reviewed Antioch University study shows that participating in just 30 hours of Freedom Project classes reduces one’s chances of being reincarcerated after release by 43%.
As one participant said, “I have been out of prison for six months; in that time, I watched 13 people return to prison. I am not one of them because of Freedom Project.”
But the community inside is only part of the success. When folks get out, they look to Freedom Project for support and connection. Now, we are building capacity to meet people’s needs when they come home.
Starting today, Freedom Project commits to walk with people as they transition from prison and offer much-needed community support every step of the way.
The Safe Return program is a community-based reentry model designed by people who are formerly incarcerated to walk shoulder to shoulder with folks coming out of prison. Safe Return offers:
- Mentoring, peer support and Reentry allies
- Support finding resources in education, jobs, housing, health care, voting, drivers licenses, etc.
- Help navigating the world outside prison (groceries, supplies, cell phones, transportation)
- Supporting people to find meaning, purpose and self-expression, like worthwhile employment, speaking, and leadership opportunities
- Offering trainings and connection to help folks examine their biases and fears about other people who have been incarcerated
- Creating community housing based in the values of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), mindfulness, racial equity and anti-oppression
Our dream is that all of us are held in community, knowing that we matter and belong. This dream inspires us to extend connection, empathy and support to folks inside prison, through the transition home after prison, and in the community where fears and biases cause painful disconnection.
Together, we can do this. We can work toward eliminating re-incarceration in Washington State. We have the strategies of Nonviolent Communication and mindfulness. We have the staff and the volunteers, and we have been working hard this year to build relationships with other reentry organizations, the Department of Corrections, and prominent leaders with whom to partner. We have been deepening our integration of racial equity and anti-oppression frameworks.
And most importantly, we have you. Because we cannot do this alone.
Our goal between now and December 31 is to raise $40,000 to jump-start Safe Return for 2019. \ Consider making a gift that is meaningful to you, your family and your community. Please lend your support at freedomprojectwa.org/donate.
"It's not the Antioch University's evidence-based proof that we want you to see... that's data. We want you to see the faces and have the conversations with the people [like me] whose lives have been touched by this organization. Ten years ago [when I got out of prison] I lived in a tent under a bridge...today I'm a project manager with the DOC Reentry Division." - Franklyn Smith