The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia has developed a Reentry Simulation program that recreates some of the struggles and challenges faced by individuals who are transitioning from incarceration back into society.
The goal is for participants to gain an understanding of the significant obstacles faced by men and women attempting to navigate the system upon their release from incarceration and returning home to their communities. In their words, “to walk in the shoes of one who is returning home gives invaluable insight for professionals who are tasked with helping those individuals achieve a successful reentry.”
In the program, participants assume the identity of an ex-offender and receive a packet of materials, including a “Life Card.” The “Life Card” explains the reentrant’s criminal background, current living situation, current job situation, and the specific weekly tasks that must be accomplished in order to avoid the risk of being sent back to prison for non-compliance with the requirements of his or her supervised release. In a series of 15 minute segments, the “reentrants” navigate a series of stations that represent the many places a returning citizen must navigate in real life on release. Each table has random elements which produce real life uncertainty when dealing with each of these agencies and organizations. Some of these stations include DMV, Probation, Court, GED, Bank, Employer, Social Services, Church, Pawn Shop, Landlord/Rent, Transportation, Health Clinic, Treatment, etc. Additionally, there are “monitors” and “officers” who check “Life Cards” to aid Probation Officers in assessing each reentrant’s level of compliance. They also identify those who may need increased levels of supervision.
In between each of these segments (at the end of each “week”) reentrants return to their “housing locations,” which can be home, the halfway house, homeless shelter or jail, depending on how successful they have been in satisfying the conditions of their release and accomplishing their assigned tasks. They then engage in a guided discussion with the event facilitators debriefing them with regards to their experiences and helping them reflect on their successes and failures.
A full description is here: https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndwv/reentry-simulation
Marin County recently put on this Reentry Simulation through their Whole Person Care program: https://www.marinij.com/2022/10/26/marin-exercise-fosters-empathy-for-former-inmates/