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InsideOut's re-entry simulation gives glimpse into the daily struggles for parolees

Over 50 volunteers sign up to participate in InsideOut's inaugural re-entry simulation.

The InsideOut Re-entry program hosted its inaugural parolee simulation on Wednesday at the Kirkwood Regional Center.

Over 50 volunteers participated in the simulation. City officials, business owners, landlords and residents role-played what it would be like to live a month in the life of someone recently released from incarceration.

"Essentially, it was a frustrating process," said Councilmember Jim Sayre.

In the simulation, Sayre said he couldn't believe one moment he was waiting in line to get an ID, to living in a halfway house after not paying rent, and finally ending up back in jail for not having the resources he needed to make frequent visits to the courthouse for his parole.

"You realize one minor step backward can really affect an entire outcome," he said.

He thinks parolees might need a little extra help, to make the transition successful, especially because everything from getting an ID to getting a job takes more of a process to go through than the average resident without a conviction.

"I think we need to be focusing on what are those processes we make people go through," he said.

It is the same process some of InsideOut's members went through and continue to go through every day.

"It's just really stressful. A lot of people get bad anxiety. I did," said former parolee Letisha Molina.

6 years after serving her last drug arrest, Molina said she has finally created a new life in Iowa City.

"I wanted to get clean and sober and I did it, and I didn't want to go back to prison," she said. "You got to have patience, don't give up."

Molina's success did not come easy.

She, and others within the program, who have set goals for themselves before coming out of incarceration, are the exception to the overwhelming number of incarcerated people who face daily hurdles making money, paying rent and ultimately avoiding going back into the system.

InsideOut members hope more parolees can continue to become exceptions to the struggles of life after prison, and they believe by teaching those in the community about struggles of life after parolee is a good place to start.


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