Safe Return Awarded Grant from NJDCA to Expand Services

For many individuals returning to society after incarceration, the “home” they left behind is now an unknown, unfamiliar place. These individuals are faced with a number of challenges upon release – securing stable housing, acquiring employment, obtaining education and/or legal assistance, reuniting with family members and even procuring identification.

To ensure success and a real second chance at life, these individuals are in desperate need of guidance, stability and accountability. Providing that valuable assistance and much-needed guidance is what VOADV’s Safe Return program is all about.

Safe Return is an innovative reentry program created in 2015 by VOADV to ensure that no inmate was left to face the challenges of reentering society alone. It offers immediate, direct services to anyone within three years of exiting the criminal justice system – whether they are in need of housing, employment, education, treatment, medical services, transportation, identification and more. Additionally, Safe Return provides personalized guidance, structure and support to former inmates, offering valuable stability as these individuals transition back into their community.

With programs in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem and Mercer counties, and close relationships with local law enforcement and other community agencies, Safe Return has assisted more than 6,000 individuals since its inception, helping these individuals overcome the many barriers they may face in returning to society after incarceration.

In 2020, the services provided through VOA’s Safe Return program proved to be invaluable during the global coronavirus pandemic. Safe Return was one of the only resources available to the thousands of New Jersey inmates released early from New Jersey state prisons in an effort to prevent further spread of COVID-19. When these individuals were released, they had absolutely no preparation for life “outside the walls” and oftentimes were left with nowhere to go. However, Safe Return staff were at the ready – stationed at public transit outposts the day of the release to assist these former inmates with transportation, reunification and navigational support and information about services available to these individuals to ensure long-term success.

Safe Return is a clear asset to individuals exiting the criminal justice system and VOADV is honored to have received a grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to support and expand the voluntary reentry services it offers.

Thanks to the DCA, as well as the continued support of Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin of VOADV’s advocacy work and efforts, Safe Return will have the opportunity to build upon existing relationships, creatively expand services and increase access to even more individuals returning to society.

“Our Safe Return program provides comprehensive services and critical support as these individuals exit the criminal justice system,” explained Amanda Leese, Senior Vice President of Safe Return and Navigator. “This grant will allow us to extend outreach to even more individuals in need, so that they, too, can receive the stability and support needed to ensure success – and a real, viable second chance at life.”

For more information about VOADV’s Safe Return program, visit:

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