MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – Organizations in Onslow and Carteret counties came together Thursday to conduct a re-entry simulation.

This is the first re-entry simulation to take place in Eastern North Carolina. The event allowed officials and community members to walk in the shoes of previous offenders.

Participants were given a new identity and sent on their way to get what’s needed to get back on their feet. Next, they had the tasks of typical offenders getting out of prison, like getting an ID, handling transportation, going to court appearances and meeting with probation officers.

They did this all while getting back by curfew and trying not to end up back in jail.

“It’s hard to navigate all the steps and have all the right resources in place, and make sure you do them in the right order to get the efficient processes possible,” said one participant Kristen Cook.

A lucky few had peer support specialists there to help guide them.

“North Carolina Peer Support Specialist Certification is a really great thing to take somebody who has been through this struggle and use their experiences as a valuable asset is the way that we should be fighting everything,” said Steven Gutherie, a certified peer support specialist assisting in the simulation.

Some participants were there to go through the experience just out of curiosity and others to help their loved ones when they are released. Some have even gone through the experience themselves.

“I’m a convicted felon, I have 13 felonies,” said Lee Stiles, vice chairman of the Carteret County Reentry Council. “Some of these barriers are very difficult to overcome, but with the right support system in your life, you can overcome and be successful.”

The process is all in the hope to help others from falling back into old patterns.

“How do we cut down on that recidivism rate? I think that’s by doing these simulations and having our stakeholders and local recipients of the county that get to go through these situations and see what the real challenges are,” said Chairman of the Carteret County Reentry Council, John Sotirkys. 

The event also had speakers such as Lateisha Thrash, director of Reentry Services from the NC Department of Adult Corrections, Congressman Dr. Greg Murphy, Warden Embrey Morton and current residents of the Carteret Correctional Center. 

The simulation and speakers were followed by a resource fair for those needing assistance. Organizers encourage people to get in touch with their local reentry councils to help establish themselves back into society. 

The Carteret County Reentry Council partnered with the Jacksonville Onslow Welcome Home Council and other nonprofits to host the event.