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A month in the life of a parolee, reentry simulation gives Johnson County residents a taste

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (KWWL) — In the U.S. 2.2 million people are incarcerated, 95% of them will eventually be released, however many will wind up back behind bars.

InsideOut Reentry Community, a resource for those who are reintegrating in society after incarceration, wanted to give people in Johnson County a feel for what it’s like to be paroled.

The organization hosted a reentry simulation for community members in Johnson County today to so they too could understand by experiencing what parolees go through.

Each member was given a packet containing their scenario, it explained how long they served, and what they were leaving prison with. It also included a checklist of items that needed to be completed.

“I served 20 years both federal and state for murder and felon in possession of a firearm and past drug conviction,” said Bri Swope, a participate during today’s simulation.

Swope must now get her life on track after spending 20-years in prison but first, she needs to get an I.D., to get transportation, to get a job.

“I did not get a job but I got 5 leads so next week is looking more promising,” said Swope after week 2 in the simulation.

InsideOut Reentry is using a simulation designed by the U.S. Attorney Generals Office said Executive Director, Michelle Heinz, “It covers a variety of different barriers and challenges that someone faces in real life.”

Each persons’ list of items includes things like checking in with their parole officer, paying off court fees and fines, paying child support, all while figuring out how to get around.

During the simulation, Swope said she experienced many barriers, “Especially transportation. you have to have transportation to get to those locations to access those resources but then how to navigate different supports.”

InsideOut says they’re always looking for landlords and employers willing to give that second chance.

“When you’ve kind of had at least a glimpse of what it’s like to walk in someone’s shoes you might be more receptive to being more understanding and be more empathetic,” said Heinz.

In this role-playing project, 15 minutes equals one week and if they don’t complete their checklist they’ll wind up back in jail. So correctly navigating the system is critical.

“Knowing where places are for one. Just having the knowledge of where to go, having the transportation tickets knowing you have to have the transportation tickets to go and then getting there,” said Swope.

Heinz said there are about 4,000 people who reenter society a year in Iowa alone. Meanwhile, there are about 40,000 barriers to those re-entering after incarceration according to the American Bar Association.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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