From L to R: Tara N. Tripp, Assistant Professor; Jacqueline C. Romero, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; Maurice Q. Jones, Founder and General Manager of PAR - Recycle Works; Cynthia Zuidema, Director of Reentry & Prevention Programs for the U.S. Attorney's Office Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Rosemary Fahmie

Reentry from prison, also known as prisoner reentry or reintegration, refers to the process of individuals transitioning back into society after serving time in prison. It involves various aspects such as finding housing, securing employment, reconnecting with family and support networks and addressing any educational or healthcare needs.  

The goal of reentry programs and initiatives is to help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reintegrate into their communities, reduce the likelihood of them returning to criminal activities and promote their rehabilitation and productive participation in society. It's a crucial stage in the criminal justice system, aimed at facilitating a smoother and more constructive transition for individuals leaving prison. 

What is a reentry simulation event? 

The reentry simulation is a two-hour event where individuals participate in activities to "walk in the shoes" of someone returning home from prison. The primary goal is to foster empathy and raise awareness about the difficulties faced by formerly incarcerated individuals as they strive to rebuild their lives. The simulation allows individuals to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the reentry process and advocate for better support systems for those reentering society from prison. 

Each participant was given an identity card at the start of the event. They took on roles of formerly incarcerated individuals, parole officers, service providers, family members or employers, simulating real-life scenarios. 

From there, they partook in simulated challenges commonly faced by individuals reentering society, such as obtaining government-issued identification (e.g., driver's license, birth certificate, etc.), finding housing, securing employment, accessing healthcare, managing finances and complying with parole requirements. 

Time constraints were put in place for each interaction with service providers from various support organizations or agencies, such as housing agencies, workforce development centers, and addiction treatment programs, mirroring the real-world time constraints and stress that people experience during reentry. Scenarios may include visits to government offices, job interviews, family interactions and more, providing a glimpse into the complexities of reintegration. 

Why was it important to have a reentry simulation event? 

When Professor Tara N. Tripp was prepping her syllabus to teach the course Rehabilitation of the Offender (CJ 3303) during the upcoming fall semester, she decided that she would plan an event that could bring the students more than just her teachings and knowledge. She believed it was imperative that students be exposed to a real-world experience of what it's like to reenter society after having been incarcerated. What started out as an event for her class grew into an event for the Department of Criminal Justice and beyond.  

Cynthia Zuidema, a Temple criminal justice alumnus, is now the Director of Reentry & Prevention Programs for the U.S. Attorney's Office Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Professor Tripp knew this was the best person to bring in for this life-changing event. 

Many of CLA's criminal justice classes focus on crime and criminality, but Professor Tripp saw an opportunity to bring what happens after a person is released from a period of incarceration to the forefront. In doing so, the hope was to open a continuous dialogue among students and faculty within the classroom about reintegration as part of the criminal justice process and not as an addendum to incarceration.  

With support from alum Cynthia Zuidema, the department was fortunate to have United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Jacqueline C. Romero in attendance to help kick off the event. 

Reentry programs are at the forefront of my vision for community engagement in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Supporting people throughout their reentry process is part of our comprehensive strategy to help prevent recidivism, combat crime and address larger societal issues that contribute to crime.  Our goals for the office's Reentry Simulation initiative are to encourage people to think deeply about the American criminal justice system, to change perceptions about returning citizens and the criminal justice system and to build empathy.  We were pleased to have the opportunity to partner with Temple University to bring the simulation to students who are future criminal justice and legal professionals. - Jacqueline C. Romero 

What was the takeaway? 

Students were included in the reentry simulation as participants or volunteers, and their willingness to offer their time and energy was remarkable. They now have a better understanding of, and a deepened empathy for, previously incarcerated individuals who are making their way back into society.  

The struggles I faced were eye-opening and provided me with empathy. As a participant, I continued to feel punished throughout the simulation while just trying to obtain basic living needs like food and shelter. -Brendon McEvoy, Junior Criminal Justice Major 

The re-entry simulation provided a peek into the daily reality of thousands of individuals attempting to reintegrate into society. It was proof that our justice system continually sits formerly incarcerated individuals up for failure and keeps this country in an oppressive state. This simulation is a call to action — we need to see change now and forever. -Elise Paine, Senior Criminal Justice Major 

The simulation showed that there is more happening after the cell closes. We usually only see the process of the arrest and conviction. The simulation makes you feel grateful and appreciative of freedom, employment, as well as education. This is a new life experience you never get to see unless you make a life-changing mistake or be a part of the change. -Mikai Williams, Junior Criminal Justice Major