The Legislative Oversight Commission on Regional Jail and Correction Facility Authority met today in Wheeling to hear a presentation about an interactive simulation program to raise awareness of the challenges of reentering society after incarceration. The simulations began in the South District of Alabama. Now, 42 states and Canada have implemented the simulations. The first simulation in West Virginia took place in 2016.
On an average day, the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day. On the same day, an incarcerated individual makes less than 100 decisions. When released from prison, it’s possible to experience sensory overload.
The simulation is an hour and a half experience representing the first week of a released person’s first week out of prison with each 15 minutes representing a day. There are several places an individual must go or things they must do including probation, court, career center, work, bank, counseling/treatment, ID Station, Social Services, Food Bank, Transportation, Rent, Church, hospital, and pawn shop. The standard setup is 13 stations but can be tailored to the state.
Each participant gets a life card with the identity of a formerly incarcerated person. The card gives a description of your identity, what you have, and what you must do to remain out of jail. Packets include money, if the individual had a job in prison, valuable items the individual has (i.e. tools & jewelry), transportation tickets, and identification, if available. The identities are of various levels of education, employment, living situations, etc. In the simulation, transportation tickets can be purchased for $1, and plasma can be donated twice a week. If the donation is completed, an individual can receive $25. If an individual has items, the pawn shop can be visited to receive money in exchange for items.
The Life Card used in the simulation tells participants each place they must go in the first week and the expenses they must pay. Participants “complete” a urine analysis by drawing cards, which say positive or negative. The simulation also has a wild card, which can be given to any participant. The wild card represents things you aren’t expecting to happen. It’s the curveball life can throw at any moment. Examples included the babysitter canceling and you couldn’t get to work, you got a speeding ticket, friends got into a fight while you were around and the cops were called, or you got money from a family member. Wild cards can be good or bad.
In the simulations, they have a mock jail, a halfway house, and a chance option. Chance cards are for when participants feel like their back is against the wall and they have no choice by to commit a crime, which is a reality of being out of jail. The chance card represents a robbery or drug deal to get money. Sometimes a participant can get away with it or get caught.
The goal of this simulation is for individuals to understand what a person reentering society goes through during the first week. There are a lot of obstacles and barriers for individuals reentering. The simulation has been done within prisons to help prepare inmates for release. This allows them to understand what they will need to do when released and allows them to prepare before release.
West Virginia’s recidivism rate is 29.3 within 3 years of release.