WHYY: Cory Sharber - April 18, 2023
A simulation gave people a chance to walk in the footsteps of someone recently released from prison — facing challenges one often encounters when reentering society, such as paying rent, meeting with a probation officer, and having enough money to buy food.
Each participant of Monday’s simulation at the National Constitution Center was given a kit, which included a “life card” that had them following set schedules over four weeks. For example, week two may require someone to attend a probation hearing while also having child support payment due that same week.
In order to make money, participants had to get a job, or they could donate blood or plasma or sell off various items at the pawn shop.
Jacqueline Romero, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, whose office organized the simulation, said most participants start laughing as if they were playing a game.
“They’re doing things that they think are funny, like someone drops their Social Security card. ’Oh, well, I’ll just pick that card up and use it for myself because now I can get through the exercise,’ and they’re trying to win the game,” Romero said. “But, in doing those things, you just committed a crime. You’re going back to prison. I think it dawns on people maybe midway through the exercise, ‘Oh my God, this is someone’s actual life that I’ve been laughing about.’”
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