Elected leaders, police officers and members of the criminal justice community walked a mile in a newly-released prisoner’s shoes, during a reentry simulation at Delaware State University.
The hour-long simulation was co-hosted by the Delaware House Democratic Caucus, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Delaware and Delaware State University.
Each week was condensed into 15 minutes and over the course of four weeks participants were required to do things like get photo IDs, check in with their probation officers and get a job. The tasks sounded easily achievable, but the exercise highlighted some of the barriers that often impede the reentry process.
Delaware House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf made it to week three before getting tossed back into jail, along with two-thirds of the group taking part in the simulation. Those numbers mirror real life statistics. In Delaware, 76 percent of ex-offenders are rearrested three years after their initial release; 68 percent are re-convicted; and 65 percent are sent back to jail.
Schwartzkopf said the reentry system is “a heck of a lot more difficult than I even thought it was,” especially when you don’t have a car or any money because you can’t get a job without a state-issued ID. The retired Delaware State Police captain admitted he felt frustrated and overwhelmed during the exercise.
“It pushes you to do things that you shouldn’t be doing, which is what got them in jail in the first place,” said Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth. “When you’re going to let somebody back out, you’ve got to give them the tools to help them to succeed and we as a state can do that. Make sure they have the ID, that’s the biggest thing coming out. You’re tripped right off the bat. So how do you compete in a 100-yard dash when you trip over the first obstacle?”