YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — People transitioning out of prison and into society face many barriers. Leaders in York County found out first-hand how hard that can be by participating in an experimental simulation, getting people to understand the day-to-day struggles of re-entry.

Many who participated say the experience was eye-opening.

“When you invest in re-entry, you invest in people, you invest in the community,” First Assistant District Attorney with the York County and Reentry Coalition Tim Barker said.

Paying rent, buying groceries, even taking children to school for many might be simple everyday tasks, but this can be a challenge for those adjusting back to their life outside of prison.

“You know the temptation of trying to get something fast regardless if it’s food, transportation, whatever you need to get for your family, you’re willing to almost do anything,” Tiffany Lowe said.

For York County community leaders including probation officers, nonprofit administrators, and workers with the district attorney’s office, the roles were flipped.

“Today to actually walk in the shoes of the people that we help, that we work with every day, was an eye-opener,” Lowe said.

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“Obviously it’s a spiral, it’s a cycle, so individuals really have to try to succeed,” Executive Director at York County Reentry Coalition Melissa Plotkin said.

Plotkin says each person was given a scenario and had to complete their goals.

“I think it’s very important for them to understand that this is not going to be easy, and when you have that level of empathy, that service level can expand,” Plotkin said.

Participants say more needs to be done.

“The reality about re-entry is this one of the most critical components of the entire criminal system,” Barker said.

“As a community, we got to step up more and help those that are re-entering, we can’t just turn our backs on them and think that they can just go out there and get it themselves, they cannot,” Lowe said.

The Reentry Coalition says in the future, they want to expand and work with more businesses and owners.