The month of April is recognized as “Second Chances Month” across our country. And while I have personal benefitted from second chances, I believe people need more than a second chance, in fact, many have not even been given a first chance. Justice related organizations, reentry stakeholders, and others will take time to recognize those that have successfully returned home from our prisons and jails, while others in our communities will consider how we can better serve those individuals and their families that have been impacted by our criminal legal systems. As I have taken the journey from incarceration to freedom, I have also learned that the words we use truly matter. So it is in this respect that I must take deference with our declaration of “Second Chances Month”.
In the USA there are over 2 million people behind the walls of our prisons and jails, and well over 70 million people who face the challenges of having a criminal history in our country.. It is beyond dispute that there are a disproportionate number of individuals incarcerated who are black and brown, many who have faced poverty, addiction, behavioral health issues, or were raised in settings with challenges that we could not possibly imagineunimaginable challenges. It is this overwhelming majority that never really had a “first chance”. While I recognize the intention behind the creation of “Second Chances Month”, I am also acutely aware of the reality that men and women who have been impacted by our criminal justice systems should not be the focus of our attention only one month out of a year, but in order to change the way we support, educate, and guide those coming home from our prisons and jails, everyday day should be one where we give people a new chance to move forward with life and use the lessons from their past to make a new tomorrow.
It is also well recognized and worth noting that over two-thirds of those who have been incarcerated will find themselves back behind the wall of our prisons and jails within three years of release. This staggering number is indicative of our gross failure to help those behind the walls prepare the currently incarcerated for their release and support them as they return home. Many of the individuals in our carceral settings have far more than one encounter with our criminal system, and the notion of us stopping at those limiting our attention to one month for awho deserve a “second chance” does not accurately reflect the reality that many individuals may require a third, fourth, or fifth chance at may be required to help them finding their way in life.
Yesterday I facilitated an incredible event. It was a Reentry Simulation at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA. For three hours people from all walks of life including the justice arena were given the identity of a returning citizen and in 15 minute blocks (all representing on day) they needed to complete tasks as normally faced by men and women returning home from prison and jail.
The event was educational, eye opening for many, frustrating, and a complete success. The discission that followed clearly highlighted the lack of awareness of the true challenges facing returning citizens and what we all could do to make reentry more practical and not a pathway to failure.
If you would like more information on this project please let me know and I would be happy to share the Federal facilitation guide.
Special thanks to Cyndi and Mia from the US Department of Justice.
I've never heard of this simulation so I just googled it. I came up with Reinventing Reentry simulation, but there is no way to contact this .org, so I can't tell if they're still putting on simulations or not. I found and downloaded a kit for running a simulation, but I'm quite certain I don't have the kind of time it takes to organize this. Who organized the simulation you attended--the Constitution Center? Who was its intended audience? How many people participated?
I'm a corrections GED and literacy instructor, and this is very interesting to me.
Edit: found this link to your article: https://whyy.org/articles/philadelphia-constitution-center-formerly-incarcerated-interactive-simulation/
Thanks for the interest. The Reentry Simulation was hosted by the Department of Justice for the Eastern District of PA. The Reentry Simulation kit is free and I would be glad to share the kit with you if there is interest.
This would be perfect for a collaboration with reentry, justice, workforce stakeholders.
If you would like to talk through some ideas of people to refer this to for help, please give me a call. 215-510-4895.
Thanks for all you do.
Thanks--I contacted my director of facility operations who contacted parole and probation, which is already in the planning stages of a reentry simulation! So sometime soon it will be happening here. I've put in my name as a volunteer if needed (if they want someone from the prisons, not just P&P).
Jeff, I would love the guide and kit to take a look at!