Sept 2nd Speaker – Barbara Richards from Project 180

Our guest speaker will be CEO of Project 180, Barbara Richards.
Project 180 seeks to build community, not prisons.

Barbara Richards is the President and CEO of Project 180, a prisoner reentry program in
Sarasota County. Born and raised in Tulsa, OK, her family of origin’s great curiosity and love of
travel instilled a lifelong interest in exploring other cultures and resulted in a young adulthood
that was filled with travel—and many wildly exciting adventures—in various parts of the world.

Eventually, her travels took her to San Francisco, where she lived and worked as the co-owner
and operator of a popular bistro on Potrero Hill. A neighborhood that is characterized by
extreme poverty on one face of the hill and upper-middle-class wealth on the other, it provided
her first close view of poverty in the form of two women who periodically came to the
restaurant to beg for food.

Years later, after moving to Sonoma County, an NPR radio show provided the facts that
determined a new trajectory in her life: for every one Black man in college, there were five
Black men in prison or jail. Almost immediately, she began volunteering in the San Francisco
Sheriff’s Department as the coordinator of a men’s support group in the felony wing and later
taught GED and Adult Basic Education in three other San Francisco jails.
Barbara moved to Tallahassee in 2004 to obtain her Master of Science degree in Criminology
and Criminal Justice at Florida State University. Since 2007, she has lived in the Sarasota
area where she founded Project 180 in 2008.

Over 30,000 Florida prisoners are released annually and reenter our communities. Many wish to become law-abiding citizens and have the best intention of living a conventional life yet have few job skills lack formal education, and experience discrimination in housing and job markets because of their felony records.

As a result, they become our local statistics—the homeless, the unemployed, the under-educated, the impoverished. Unable to make it in the conventional world, over 76% are rearrested for a new crime within five years which contributes to victimization and drains community resources.

Project 180 seeks to break this cycle by providing

  • workforce education and financial literacy classes for inmates
  • an annual reentry lecture series for the general public
  • information and referrals for felons seeking housing, programs, and employment, and
  • a comprehensive, whole-life Residential Program for men in recovery

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