Marano Fellows Class of 2014
Name: David Gianfrancesco

Director, Workforce Development


Safer Foundation

Location: Chicago Illinois
Industry Sector: Manufacturing

Organizational Background & Mission: Safer Foundation (Safer) is a not-for-profit workforce development and policy advocacy entity, widely recognized for serving people with criminal records. Founded in 1972, it began operating as an advocate for individuals with criminal records in their efforts to obtain employment following release from prison or jail.

Safer’s mission is to reduce recidivism by supporting, through a full spectrum of services, the efforts of people with criminal records to become employed, law-abiding members of the community.

Over the years, Safer has developed a range of programs and services designed to address these needs. Safer offers case management, job readiness training, financial services, housing, prevention education, job development, family strengthening, mentoring and retention services – and Safer is the only private agency to operate two secured residential transition (work release) centers on behalf of the Illinois Department of Corrections. To enhance the prospect of securing employment and to increase the marketability of participants, Safer also offers GED and ABE programs, and manages vocational training and higher education programming.

Today, Safer serves over 10,000 youth and adults with criminal records annually and has multiple sites throughout the state of Illinois and one site in Iowa.

Last year, Safer Foundation helped more than 4,200 men and women with criminal records find a job. A study conducted by lead researcher Dr. Arthur J. Lurigio, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Faculty at Loyola University found that individuals with criminal records who participate in job preparedness training and employment services offered by Safer are much less likely to return to prison.

Interest in Sector Work: Safer's evidence-based programs are geared toward addressing barriers that impede employment and providing services that support clients' abilities to successfully acclimate into society. If people with criminal records are provided with direct service support focused on job readiness and placement, and are also linked to other critical supportive services, their reentry challenges will be addressed and, as a result, their likelihood to recidivate (return to prison) will be reduced. Safer's work is having an impact. A three-year study revealed that only 20% of Safer clients who achieved 30-day job retention returned to prison compared to a 52.3% recidivism rate for released inmates in general in Illinois. Among Safer clients who achieved one-year job retention, only 16% recidivated in a three-year period.

Through a strategic Sector approach addressing targeted industries, education, and skill shortages, Sector work will help to create stronger bonds between businesses and people with criminal records in need of a job, as well as encourage strategies to promote low skilled candidates so they can earn a living wage, have longer job attachments and remain out of prison.

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