Posted by: mollyrossiter | April 14, 2009

Overcoming obstacles

Imagine landing in a community with two transportation passes and $10 in your pocket and just four weeks to find an apartment, secure transportation, get a job, buy groceries and set up utilities. Add “visit probation officer” to that list and it becomes a little more complicated.

About 95 percent of the estimated 3,000 people in the Sixth Judicial District’s system — in jails and prison, residential units and other facilities — will eventually return to the community. Most of those will do so without any help, many without resources or knowing where to turn.

Churches United, in conjunction with St. Pius X Church and the Sixth Judicial District, is again offering a returning prisoner simulation on Saturday. For an hour, participants will see firsthand what it is returning prisoners face when they are released from prison or jail.

Each participant will be given a packet with a biography of the prisoner they will become. Some will have learning disabilities, such as the inability to read. Others will have drug or other dependencies. All will need to find a way to make it on their own.

The hour will represent the first four weeks a prisoner is out, said Brooke Kriegel, executive director of Churches United. It will show some of the real-life challenges returning prisoners face.

“You get out and you don’t have transportation, you don’t have a job, you don’t have a place to stay,” Kriegel said. “But you still have to see your probation officer.”

This is the fourth year Churches United has offered the simulation to the public. Kriegel said she and other organizers hope it helps broaden the awareness of what programs are available and where volunteers are needed.

There is room for 84 participants in Saturday’s simulation, and just 42 people have signed up. To register or get more information contact Kriegel at Churches United, (319) 366-7163 or via email, churchesunited@yahoo.com

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