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ESPHS Hosts Interactive Simulation Illuminating the Challenges of Reentry

-- The interactive event is offered to the public for the first time, takes place at Eastern State Penitentiary on August 15 at 6:00 p.m. --

July 31, 2023

In partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and PAR-Recycle Works, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site will host a reentry simulation on the evening of Tuesday, August 15, 2023. This hands-on experience, designed to raise awareness about the barriers that people face when returning home from prison, marks the first time this experience is offered to the general public.

The simulation is a two-hour activity that challenges participants to navigate the systems and practical hurdles encountered by people transitioning back into society after incarceration. The exercise is divided into four segments, representing the first four weeks of life post-release. Participants are assigned a fictitious persona and back story. Through the lens of a recently incarcerated person, participants encounter simulated scenarios that mirror real-life tasks such as finding a job, attending treatment, and paying bills. Participants must complete the required tasks within the allotted time and avoid rearrest. When time runs out, participants debrief and participate in a guided discussion about the complexities of reentry and the criminal justice system.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has previously facilitated the simulation with lawyers, social workers, law enforcement, students, and other groups with relevant professional interests. The simulation at Eastern State Penitentiary, however, marks the first time that members of the public are invited to participate.

“Our criminal justice system impacts—and is funded by—all of us. The reentry simulation can help us think more critically about the systems currently in place, and whether there are other ways to support individuals and our communities for better outcomes” said Sean Kelley, Senior Vice President, Director of Interpretation at Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

In addition to creating awareness about the obstacles to reentry, this exercise can also change perceptions about returning citizens and the criminal justice system, deepen empathy, and inspire people to think more deeply about the workings of the American criminal justice system.

United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero said, "My office is committed to educating others about the challenges of reentry, and to supporting people with their transition home so that our community can be safer. In my previous role as an Assistant United States Attorney, I participated in the office's Reentry Court for years and I saw the struggles. I hope that our Reentry Simulation Kits and numerous simulations hosted after today will open up many more eyes and inspire understanding."

According to a 2022 report from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 65% of people released from a Pennsylvania state prison in 2016 were rearrested or reincarcerated within three years of release.

This event is part of Eastern State's ongoing Searchlight Series of events addressing issues in contemporary corrections. The Searchlight Series: Reentry Simulation takes place Tuesday, August 15 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., in person at Eastern State Penitentiary. This event is free. Capacity is limited. Reservations are required and can be made online at

About the United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania:
The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania serves as the chief federal law enforcement officer in the region. The office is responsible for one of the Nation's largest districts, covering 4,700 square miles with more than five million people residing within its nine counties (Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia.) The priorities of the U.S. Attorney's Office reflect the needs of the region and demonstrate its commitment to public safety and community well-being. Areas of importance include combatting drug trafficking, violent crime, cybercrime, and civil rights violations, among others. Its Office of Public Affairs and External Engagement works to reduce and prevent violence by convening dialogue among community stakeholders, improving coordination between public safety agencies, increasing transparency and equity, and strengthening public trust.

The United States Attorney's Office is committed to raising awareness about the importance of Reentry and to supporting initiatives that promote successful reintegration into society. For 17 years, Reentry has been an integral part of the U.S. Attorney's Office's mission. Aiding people with their reentry process is part of a comprehensive strategy to help prevent recidivism, combat crime, and address larger societal issues that contribute to crime. The office has been a critical partner in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania's three federal problem-solving courts: STAR (reentry), STRIDES (mental health), and Relapse Prevention Court (addiction), serving individuals returning home from federal prison. The district's STAR reentry court program is a national model and has been replicated across the country.

As part of its reentry initiatives, the Office facilitates Simulations across the District and nation with law enforcement, community members, non-profits, and people from all walks of life. By working together, we can ensure that our returning citizens have the tools and resources they need to succeed in their journey home.

About PAR-Recycle Works:
PAR-Recycle Works is a nonprofit electronics recycler that provides transitional employment to people returning from prison. They deconstruct electronics and destroy data to generate revenue and pay their employees. By providing employees with skills and opportunities, PAR-Recycle Works helps to build safer communities and contribute to stronger families while saving taxpayer money.

About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site:
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long-abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.

Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells held approximately 80,000 men and women during its 142 years of operation, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is open for tours year-round. Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; award-winning exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.

In recent years, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has been awarded the prestigious Excellence in Exhibitions award by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the nation’s highest award in exhibition development and design, for its exhibit Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, as well as the Institutional Award for Special Achievement from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and the Trustee Emeritus Award for Stewardship from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The LEAD Fellowship, formerly called the Returning Citizens Tour Guide Project, has won the EdCom Award for Innovation in Museum Education by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and has been featured internationally by such networks as the BBC and others.

For more information, visit and follow Eastern State Penitentiary on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and Tik Tok.


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On Aug 15, Eastern State Penitentiary invites the public to participate in a reentry simulation that highlights the challenges and barriers faced by people coming home from prison. Tickets are free, but capacity is limited. Reserve your spot:


2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner