LOUISVILLE, Ky. — According to the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, about 38% of Kentucky adults have a criminal record.

What You Need To Know

  • April is Second Chance Month

  • Goodwill Industries of Kentucky is hosting reentry simulations for those previously jailed

  • They work with the Department of Corrections on the simulations

  • The simulations highlight just how difficult starting over can be

Jenny Lewis knows exactly how it feels to be locked up behind bars. She spent six months incarcerated and served the rest of her time on probation.

“The absolute worst thing about being locked up is the constant heartache from missing my children. That was foremost, something I never forgot about. It’s not a feeling that ever went away,” Lewis explained.

The mother of three said re-entering society was hard. For her, she felt shame and embarrassment.

“Some of us that get out, we try so hard to do it the right way. It’s almost impossible. It took me almost 10 years. It took me almost 10 years to get back on my feet. To where now, I’m not wealthy by any means, but I have finally got my confidence back,” Lewis said.

She played a role in a reentry simulation hosted by Goodwill of Kentucky. It’s for Second Chance month. The simulation comes from the Department of Corrections. Participants are assigned a role or personality and told if they have an ID and how much money they have. They travel around to various booths set up and staffed with community partners, also playing roles. They have to simulate living the life of someone in reentry. There are many booths people have to visit, like employment. People have to use transportation tokens to get to each booth. They use real looking money and can sign up for rental help, food assistance and more.

“It’s mind-blowing. It really is just like when you first get out of prison. I have been recently incarcerated, so I understand it all well.” Sayheed Asante, 41, said.

Asante spent five years in jail serving his sentence. He re-entered society five months ago and has been home since.

“It’s a struggle the first month, because you gotta get your ID, your birth certificate, you gotta find a place of employment that is lenient on your time of incarceration,” Asante said.

Goodwill has hosted 16 reentry simulations across Kentucky already this year.

Angie Kerrick, Goodwill Industries of Kentucky’s director of training and development explained, “For everyone to understand exactly how difficult that pathway can be for people that are in reentry. It’s not as simple as just getting released from jail and you're handed your identification and your handed money, things like that, a job, that’s not the reality.”

In Lewis’ eyes, the simulations truly matter.

“It’s so important for the community to realize we made bad choices; we’re not bad people and we deserve a second chance,” Lewis said.

Gov. Andy Beshear, D-Ky., spoke of a resource website on April 18. The site is full of resources for overcoming addiction or leaving incarceration. 

Goodwill said it has more simulations scheduled for the rest of this year, including one at Eastern Kentucky University with the criminal justice program.