In 2011, the documentary Crime After Crime debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. It made its television debut on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network). The film followed Safran (who is also an attorney) and his partner Nadia Costa's efforts to free wrongfully imprisoned domestic violence survivor Deborah Peagler. The film was directed by filmmaker Yoav Potash, and was released to critical acclaim.
The film won numerous awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, The National Board of Review’s Freedom of Expression Award, The Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism, and over 20 other top honors for documentaries in the US and abroad. The film was a New York Times Critics' Pick.
Safran's memoir, Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid, was released September 10, 2013, by Hyperion. The memoir was praised by critics. Kirkus Reviews wrote that it was "a remarkable account of survival despite the odds". Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and wrote "This assured debut is reminiscent of David Sedaris’s and Augusten Buroughs’s best work: introspective, hilarious, and heartbreaking". San Francisco Chronicle wrote that it "offers engaging story after story and a healthy dose of narrative tension throughout."
Free Spirit follows Safran's life story from his birth in a San Francisco commune, to traveling the American west with his single mother as she searched for Utopia. As they encountered a cast of colorful characters, they lived in everything from an ice cream truck to a lean-to on a stump. When Safan's mother married an abusive ex-guerilla, their life darkened. Eventually Safan learned to fight back and help free his mother and himself from abuse.
On September 10, 2013, the Free Spirit short film was released. Directed by Crime After Crime filmmaker Yoav Potash, the film doubled as a book trailer.
Joshua Safran is a nationally recognized champion for the rights of women and a zealous advocate for survivors of domestic violence and the wrongfully imprisoned. He has received numerous awards for his work including The Pursuit of Justice Award from the California Women's Law Center, The Rollie Mullen Award from Stand for Families Free of Violence, The Domestic Violence Pro Bono Law Award from the Domestic Violence Practicum at UC Berkeley School of Law, the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, and the California Habeas Project, as well as The CORA (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse) Award.
He is also known for his public service and his commitment to land use, local government, and aviation law.
Safran's mother's family is Jewish, and Safran currently practices Orthodox Judaism, after having reconnected with his Jewish heritage at 9 years old.