Project RETURN

Over the past forty years, Project RETURN has served thousands of men and women leaving prison, helping them make a positive and permanent return to community, family, and friends. It achieves its overall goal of successful re-entry by helping clients achieve their individually-established goals, such as obtaining job skills, securing employment, addressing existing addictions (alcohol and other drug abuse), participating in re-entry counseling and support, applying for Food Share or Social Security, reestablishing relationships with their children, or managing anxiety and stress.

Primary Focus: Ex-offender Employment and Re-entry

Lutheran Affiliation: ELCA

Operating Budget: $579,375


  • Clients get help with identifying employment goals, creating a resume, finding job leads, and preparing for interviews as a path to self-sustainability. In 2019, the number of job placements rose by 25%.

  • Project RETURN works with landlords to create housing opportunities for clients.

  • Support groups include the women’s support group, alumni support group, AODA treatment groups, Life Skills classes, and Circles of Support. Circles of Support are small groups of 12 to 14 people that meet regularly to provide a stable, supportive network to men and women returning from incarceration. The Circles are hosted by several churches (Hephatha, First Unitarian Church, Blessed Savior Catholic Parish) and follow a structured process that allows for sharing of experiences and a safe space to be heard. Circles are also a place to make positive connections.

  • In terms of future growth, Project RETURN is exploring the possibility of building a transitional housing facility for individuals exiting incarceration.

Who is Served: Of the 16,700 formerly incarcerated individuals and individuals who are under extended supervision (probation or parole) in Milwaukee County at any given time, almost all are unemployed or underemployed at the time Project RETURN begins working with them. Many are homeless and in crisis at first. Also, per the Department of Corrections, 69% of Wisconsin’s prison inmates have alcohol or drug abuse treatment needs.

Location: 2821 Vel R Phillips Ave, Suite 223, Milwaukee, WI 53212