People coming out of incarceration have an extremely hard journey transitioning to normalcy upon being released.
The Beyond Bars: Life After Incarceration reentry simulation was hosted by Ashley Lough with the U.S. The Attorney's Office. Held by the College of Media on Oct. 26, the simulation put students in the shoes of people navigating through the hardships involved with incarceration.
The simulation was set up so that each participant was given an identity with their reason for incarceration, where they lived after being released and their weekly responsibilities.
Simulation participants needed to complete four weeks worth of responsibilities in order to avoid the consequences of homelessness and jail time. Some of those tasks included paying rent, buying food, reporting to a probation officer, attaining proper identification cards, buying transportation services and more.
Participants had 15 minutes to complete every task required for each week.
Every station required three different identification cards and a transportation ticket. As a result, the lines at the ID and transportation system were overwhelming. In addition, almost every station required some sort of fee.
When I participated, I was given $20 to start. I was missing a certain identification card and in the first week I had to report to probation and social services and purchase food. I waited in line at the ID station for 13 minutes, making it virtually impossible for me to complete my other responsibilities.
After I got my correct ID, I did not have time to do anything else. This meant I didn't eat or go to probation that week, forcing me to have to report to court the following week.
As stressed out as I was, every other participant went through similar, if not worse, situations due to the position they were in upon being released.
As the participants had to report to multiple locations in a short amount of time, paying a fee each time, many could not afford food or rent. By the second week almost half of participants were homeless.
Recidivism, the tendency for a criminal to reoffend and go back to jail, was emphasized during the simulation.
Around the third week, over half of the participants had been back to jail at least once for violating parole, failing to report to probation or resorting back to crime due to financial troubles.
By the fourth week, 75% of participants had gone to jail.
In the real world, that statistic is the reality. Data shows the majority of people released end up back in jail at some point.
The simulation was an eye opening experience. During Lough’s presentation she described what she hoped the participants would get out of it.
“Be as helpful as you can possibly be for those trying to return to normal life," Lough said.