By Charles Petty | Photos by Charles Petty
For so many former incarnated people, reentry into life is far harder than it may look. The general public is often unaware of the barriers faced by those leaving prison and working to change their lives for the better.
On Tuesday, about 40 people – including members of law enforcement, public officials, community activists, and nonprofit leaders – attended a “Prison to Community Reentry Simulation” at the city of Sanford’s Public Works Facility. The event was hosted by the Department of Justice, the Lee-Harnett County District Attorney’s office, and Project Safe Neighborhoods, and simulated life for a person one month into returning from incarnation.
During the simulation, attendees were given made-up offenses (ranging from internet crimes to drug selling and possession) and then placed on a list provided to the audience. After being released from a mock prison, the participant was given a bag with a check-list, mock cash and slips known as transportation vouchers. The room in the public works building had various stations representing the different areas of the public former offenders would need to access. Among those were a treatment booth, probation, food pantry, half-way house, DMV office, and a pawn shop. Each participant’s list showed how often the “offender” needed treatment and check-ins with their probation officer as well as buying foods and medicine.
Participants were given enough transportation vouchers and money to make it to at least one of the booths. The hour-long event was designed to show in a hypothetical four week period how well one could survive being out of incarceration. Some of the offenders had places to stay like a loved one’s house, while others had to also add in rent or stay in the half-way house booth for shelter.
The post-release life of a month’s span was tricky, and many in the group ended up back in mock prison at least once, if not twice. For others, it was a matter of learning how to navigate the red tape so many encounter when coming back into society after a long stint in prison.
The goal of Project Safe Neighborhoods is to “improve the quality of life for all residents of the Middle District of North Carolina by employing a comprehensive, data-driven district-wide strategy to reduce gang related violent crimes and illegal gun possession.” The program is run by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“I have been in the U.S. Attorney’s office for 25 years,” said Robert Lang, the program’s moderator. “We have been working on violence reduction partnerships and realized that reentry was a smart way of doing business. We have tried our best to assist counties in our district to think about reentry programs.”
After the simulation, the group had a community discussion on how to move forward. Lang talked about how it’s up to communities to work with the federal sector to ensure former felons can find easily accessible resources once leaving prison.
“As sheriff, me and my team are open to any ideas with community members that can keep people from coming back to our jail and make them better citizens,” said interim Sheriff Brian Estes, who attended the event.
For more find information about the program or other resources offered by the U.S. Attorney’s office, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/ncm/index.html or contact them at USANCM.PSN@usdoj.com.
I got out of prison in 2014 after a 7 year sentence. I started planning for my release when my sentence began in 2007. I set goals and did everything I could to meet those goals. I also DIDN’T do anything that would hinder my ability to reach those goals. Getting out WAS still a struggle. However, I got through it. Today I’m a valuable team member at Lee Iron and Metal. I’m also a first time homeowner as of 2020. It CAN be done. I’m living proof
Congratulations!! It can be done. What was your biggest motivator?
I can’t really pinpoint one motivator bigger than others. I was very sick of being a loser and burden to society, myself and everyone around me. I was determined to make every effort to live right no matter what.
Sounds like a good program for high school seniors as a possible deterrent!
That is correct. Have them take a peak into the future of bad decisions.
Yes. Giving them a peak into the future of bad decisions.
Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Let’s he honest though, they are likely all innocent.
There’s challenges in everything we do in life. The problem is not the challenge, but how we choose to handle the challenge that will produce good or bad consequences. With the “good” and “bad” line blurred, there will be even more problems. Morals and ethics are mostly considered “racist” or “micro aggressions”, and don’t mention God because it may make people feel uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that they may do, God forbid, the right thing. It was faith in God through Jesus Christ that led to repentance and turned my life around 180°. It still works today.