Prison reentry simulation allows participants to understand others’ struggles

Rosemary Chesney, Campus Carrier arts and living editor

Berry’s Sociology of Disability class worked with the Department of Justice and a local planning committee to put on a prison reentry simulation. This simulation was meant to educate people about the challenging experiences of those who re-enter society after being incarcerated. Students from the class participated by helping for weeks beforehand with stuffing folders, printing IDs, printing life cards, advertising the event and facilitating it. Mia Maxwell | Campus Carrier

On Tuesday, the Sociology of Disability (SOC 375) class along with a planning committee of representatives from selected community sponsors assisted the Department of Justice in convening a Prison Re-entry Simulation. This simulation, which took place at the at the Rome-Floyd Public Library, was meant to show the difficulty of reentering society after being imprisoned for a significant period of time. 

This simulation was designed to let participants go through a re-entry experience characterizing the first four weeks after being released from jail. Participants got to receive ‘identities’ and ‘life cards’ upon arrival explaining their weekly accomplishments. They were required to visit up to 14 different stations including court, probation, ID stations, rent/housing, employment, etc. Senior Amil Hogan was one of the students who worked on the simulation.

“Before working on this project, I didn’t think about the fact you have to start your life over again after being imprisoned,” Hogan said. “I think it’s taught me how difficult it is to get your life together after living outside of ‘normal’ life for so long.”

Students from the class participated by helping to facilitate the simulation. They spent the last few weeks doing assignments for the simulation that were asked of them including printing ID papers, prepping packets for participants and printing ‘life cards.’ During the simulation, they helped to manage the event and work at any stations where they were needed. Sophomore Hannah Boler also participated in working on the simulation.

“I hope that participants will gain more empathy and a better understanding of what these people truly go through,” Boler said. “A lot of people lack empathy towards those who have been incarcerated and don’t really see them as humans.”

Tuesday was the first time the simulation has been done here in Rome. However, the Department of Justice has done the simulation in other cities surrounding Rome. A planning committee to organize the simulation was created from selected community sponsors such as Rome-Floyd County Library, Living Proof Recovery, Reentry Services Division of the Department of Community Supervision and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Berry College. Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, and instructor of the class, Sarah Allred was among those in the planning committee.

Mia Maxwell | Campus Carrier

“It’s been great working with Professor Allred,” Amil said. “It’s been great learning and preparing everything. I’ve loved working with her for this project.”

The primary purpose of the reentry simulation is to inform and educate participants of the experiences and challenges of people who are recently released from prison. Students from the class also worked to gather participants for the simulation through fliers in the Rome community, word of mouth on campus and utilizing social media. Senior Lucy Hicks has worked with this event as well.

“I think not everyone gets the opportunity to take a class on the prison system,” Hicks said. “Having been through the class and seeing how difficult it can be for people, we have an understanding of how prison is used to punish rather than rehabilitate. I hope people get an understanding with this simulation of just how difficult it is to re-enter society after being imprisoned.”

Hicks explained that the ultimate goal is to be able to do the prison re-entry simulation at an actual prison here in Rome. This would allow for prisoners to get an idea of how to re-enter society when they do eventually get out of prison. The time to do a re-entry simulation at a prison is still to be determined as of now. 

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