Returning to the community after time in prison can be a complex transition for individuals involved in the criminal justice system. Many struggle with employability, limited housing options, substance use, mental illness and other barriers.
On Friday, the Lancaster County Reentry Coalition hosted a reentry simulation at Millersville University. The simulation was the first of its kind here and drew about 100 participants.
“There is a lot of stigma around people (who are) incarcerated,” said Carrie Kurtz, director of Reentry Planning and Coordination at the coalition, “so we want to break the stigma. We want to educate the community.”
Participants in the simulation interacted with stations representing 16 agencies and organizations that returning individuals frequently deal with, giving them a sense of what reentry involves.
Some of the tasks: Finding housing and employment, arranging for children’s schooling or childcare, opening a bank account, obtaining health care and sometimes treatment for mental illness or substance abuse. And importantly: Completing required check-ins with Adult Probation & Parole.
Kiersten Dunn, who helps run a reentry program at Community Services Group, came out to participate in the simulation.
“For people who are not familiar with life after jail, I think it will be very good for them to realize how hard it is for people coming out of jail to get connected with things,” she said.
“I think this opportunity also gives people a chance to be part of the solution,” Kurtz said.
The event was sponsored by Reentry Coalition and Millersville’s Center for Public Scholarship & Social Change. The coalition hopes to offer more simulations in the future.