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Reentry Simulation

The Reentry Simulation simulates the struggles and challenges faced by individuals who are transitioning from incarceration back into society.

The goal of this simulation is for participants to gain an understanding of the significant obstacles faced by men and women attempting to navigate the system upon their release from incarceration and returning home to their communities. To walk in the shoes of one who is returning home gives invaluable insight for professionals who are tasked with helping those individuals achieve a successful reentry.

Over the course of about 1 and 1/2 hours participants experience the first month of post-release life. Each participant assumes the identity of an ex-offender and receives a packet of materials, including a “Life Card.” The “Life Card” explains the reentrant’s criminal background, current living situation, current job situation, and the specific weekly tasks that must be accomplished in order to avoid the risk of being sent back to prison for non-compliance with the requirements of his or her supervised release. The simulation begins with an explanation and instructions from the facilitator and the reentrants then set out to try and navigate their new lives. Each week takes place in a 15 minute segment.

In between each of these segments (at the end of each “week”) reentrants return to their housing locations, which can be home, the halfway house, homeless shelter or jail, depending on how successful they have been in satisfying the conditions of their release and accomplishing their assigned tasks. They then engage in a guided discussion with the event facilitators debriefing them with regards to their experiences and helping them reflect on their successes and failures.

The room is set up with approximately 15 stations. Each of these tables represent the many places a returning citizen must navigate when they are first released. Each table has random elements which produce real life uncertainty when dealing with each of these agencies and organizations. Some of these stations include DMV, Probation, Court, GED, Bank, Employer, Social Services, Church, Pawn Shop, Landlord/Rent, Transportation, Health Clinic, Treatment, etc. Additionally, there are “monitors” and “officers” who check “Life Cards” to aid Probation Officers in assessing each reentrant’s level of compliance. They also identify those who may need increased levels of supervision.

Successful Reentry back into society is something which is difficult. It is a complex and unpredictable process. Since each person has different individual needs, resources, and histories, we find that each person's life path is different. “Successful Reentry” is not something that happens automatically upon release from prison, but is something which has a greater chance of occurring if planned for accordingly.

This simulation gives us visibility into the perspectives of the returning citizens who we are tasked to help. Our aim is to represent a realistic landscape of what these individuals face when coming home. By experiencing these complex obstacles and barriers that these individuals must navigate, we not only gain visibility into the individuals perspectives but also discover innovative ways to help these individuals succeed. The simulation is applicable to all groups who are trying to reenter society and can accommodate the training needs of other agencies and organizations.

To schedule a FREE reentry simulation in the Northern District of West Virginia, contact Ashley Lough at We appreciate your interest in this simulation and look forward to speaking with you.

If you are interested in running a reentry simulation of your own, the Northern District of West Virginia offers a free one-hour train-the-trainer program. The Department of Justice has successfully trained individuals throughout the country on becoming simulation facilitators. If you would like to request the training video, please send a request to the email address above.

 Simulation materials can be downloaded free of charge. To download the materials that you need to create your reentry simulation kit, click here:



Updated May 11, 2023