Simulation Shows Difficulties of Life After Prison

Apr 10, 2022

Cleveland Community College in Shelby, NC hosts reentry simulation

A week after getting out of prison, Brandon Ruppe found himself sitting back in jail. His offense? Missing a meeting with his probation officer, a meeting he said he couldn’t make because he was too busy trying to get a mandatory drug test all week.


“I couldn’t get to probation because I was standing in line for an ID. I couldn’t get a drug test because I didn’t have all my IDs. Everybody doesn’t have all their IDs coming out of prison. So people get competitive, and they can get frustrated because the people at these places don’t always treat you well,” he said.


Ruppe’s experience wasn’t real. It was part of a prisoner reentry simulation at Cleveland Community College (pictured below) where Ruppe works, but it is a situation many people returning to the world from prison experience every day. The simulation, hosted at Cleveland Community College by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and Chamber of Commerce, functioned similarly to the poverty simulations hosted at high school campuses around the country.


Participants were given a new name and list of tasks they must complete in a simulated week: getting an ID, meeting with their parole officers, paying rent, going to work. The March 30 event was designed to be as burdensome as possible. At seemingly every station, a participant would express frustration at the unwillingness of someone to help them, or of not knowing they needed to visit another station first.


At the end of each simulated week, most participants would either go to jail, end up in a halfway house or wind up homeless. A very select few would have a roof of their own over their heads.


“The thing I think most people don’t realize is they are only one bad decision away from being in a situation like this,” said Jana Demetral, of Lincoln Correctional Center. “Just one mistake. You could be texting in your car and accidentally hit and kill someone. Then bam, you are in this exact situation.”


From The Shelby Star, by Dustin George