What’s life like after prison? Simulation at Coe College gave a glimpse

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 10:41 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Most of the time, Kaiya Williams is a sophomore at Coe College. However, on Wednesday she was trying to experience what it was like to be someone else —someone reentering society after incarceration.

During the Central Iowa Works Reentry Simulation, participants were given a packet that included their background, instructions, and different amounts of cash or items to pawn.

Example packet from reentry simulator at Coe College.
Example packet from reentry simulation at Coe College.(Mollie Swayne with KCRG)

Participants had to follow the instructions on their cards with their limited resources, but it was often difficult. For instance, many participants needed to access social services, but didn’t have IDs in order to do so.

The activity was broken up into four rounds, with each round representing one week.

Williams said the activity was “stressful.” She added, “I felt like I actually have to be manipulative in order to get ahead.”

Students were not the only ones participating. Jeremy Elges is a Cedar Rapids attorney who does court-appointed criminal defense. He said he’s heard stories from his clients and thought the activity was “realistic.” “There’s a lot of challenges and Catch-22′s, that you need this to do that, but you need that to do this.”

Like Williams, Elges did what he had to in order to get ahead. “In my first week of this, I didn’t have the stuff I needed. So I broke into somebody else’s house and stole some things so that I could get the stuff I needed to try to make it. I still wasn’t successful.”

At Coe, Williams studies sociology and psychology. She said, “I hope to maybe do some more research on how this is impacting some of our underrepresented minorities and people that are going into the system.”

As for Elges, he said the activity brought more understanding about what his clients face. “I think that it’s sometimes easy for me, when I’m having a hard or busy day, to hear the reasons my clients aren’t doing the things that they’re supposed to be doing and be like, ‘Well, you just have to do it.’ Right? So I think it’s going to be something—I’ll remember this and may be a little more like, ‘Well, okay, let’s see if we can get more time. What can we do to help you get these things done?’”

Copyright 2022 KCRG. All rights reserved.