NORRISTOWN, PA—On September 28, 2023, dozens of Montgomery County employees and partners gathered in the Public Safety Training Campus in Conshohocken for an afternoon designed to simulate what life is like as a resident returning home from incarceration.
In partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts Lori Schreiber welcomed government employees, advocates, and community partners to participate in a reentry simulation on September 28.
“Our hope is that this reentry exercise will allow our county employees and community partners to better understand what people are going through, and help them with a smoother transition back into their home communities,” said Schreiber.
Participants were given sample identities of individuals who were newly released from prison. Participants had to then navigate the simulation by attending probation, attending mental health or substance abuse treatment, going food shopping, finding part- or full-time jobs, taking drug tests, securing housing, and other steps. With limited funds and little explanation, participants often found themselves frustrated and struggling to work within the system.
“Our goal for hosting Reentry Simulations is to teach the public about the barriers that so many of our community members face as they return home from prison,” said U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero, who offered opening remarks at the event. “The successful reentry of returning citizens is crucial not only for their individual success and well-being, but also for the safety and stability of our communities. So, reentry must be everyone’s concern.”
The event was also co-sponsored by the Montgomery County Reentry Initiative and Family Services of Montgomery County, as well as the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety.
After the simulation, participants gathered to discuss outcomes and next steps. Some voiced feelings of frustration and uncertainty, and many expressed a deeper understanding and appreciation of what returning citizens have to go through.
But one of the biggest takeaways from the event was awareness—that simply knowing what the barriers are and talking about them can help returning citizens feel more welcome and accepted into the community.
“It is not just about the individual being ready. It is about the community being ready to accept them,” remarked one participant.
Anyone interested in supporting reentering citizens are invited to volunteer for organizations like the Montgomery County Reentry Initiative, advocate for more affordable housing and employment opportunities, offer financial and mental wellness resources, and support affordable childcare options.
For more information and resources, visit www.montcoreentry.org/resources.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania facilitates Reentry Simulations across the nation with law enforcement, community members, nonprofits, and people from all walks of life. For more information on how to host a Reentry Simulation, contact Cynthia Zuidema at Cynthia.email@example.com.
Media Contact: Megan Alt, firstname.lastname@example.org