Parole simulation to help employers understand the challenges returning citizens face

Photo by Charles Kremenak via Flickr

Every year around 5,000 Iowans return to their community after incarceration. Two immediate tasks are at hand: finding work and a place to live. A new parole and reentry simulation, the first in Johnson County, aims to help local business owners and employers understand what life is like for these individuals during reentry.

During the simulation on Oct. 18, participants will assume the identity of a returning citizen who has been released from prison and must take care of all living expenses and court-ordered appointments within the month (organized during the simulation into four 15-minute weeks). They will interact with organizations such as a transportation office, treatment program, bank, driver’s license office, and a jail. The event is sponsored by Iowa City-based Inside Out Reentry and ReEntry Network (REN) and supported by IowaWORKS.

“By living the life of someone released from prison, participants experience first-hand the barriers and challenges encountered by returning citizens on a daily basis,” Mike Cervantes, Inside Out Reentry executive director, said.

The reentry simulation was developed by the U.S. Attorney’s office. During an NPR interview in April 2016, Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke about the importance of reducing recidivism — previous offenders being reconvicted — by providing ways for returning citizens to be productive members of society after leaving institutions.

“What that means is we reduce crime,” Lynch said. “There are fewer victims when individuals have options — when they have job skills, when they have life skills, we break the cycle of children following their parents into institutions.”

The free event will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 18 starting at 1:00 p.m. at the Kirkwood Regional Center (2301 Oakdale Blvd) in Coralville. Participants should RSVP by contacting Inside Out at or (319) 338-7996 by Oct. 9.