Simulation helps community members understand challenges after incarceration

Community members, educators, employers and others are encouraged to learn how individuals, after serving prison time, face a multiple challenges reentering the community and finding employment during a reentry simulation event held later this month.

Inside Out Reentry Community, an Iowa City nonprofit, is holding the event from 1 to 3 p.m. on April 19, at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 140 Gathering Place Lane, in Iowa City. During the first 90 minutes of the event, participants will be given a fictional identity of an individual attempting to reenter the community following a criminal conviction.

Participants will navigate through “multiple difficult tasks” and gain insight into the hardships that come with parole. Following the stimulation, organization officials will have a 30-minute debrief and panel discussion, featuring firsthand experiences and stories of individuals who have gone through this process.
This is a public outreach event for the community and is free for participants. However, space is limited and an RSVP is necessary.
If you go
What: Inside Out reentry simulation
Where: St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 140 Gathering Place Lane, Iowa City
When: 1 to 3 p.m. April 19
Cost: Free
Details: RSVP required at [email protected] or (319) 338-7996

Michelle Heinz, executive director of Inside Out Reentry Community, said the organization is anticipating about 50 people will attend this year’s simulation. There still is space left for individuals to register, but it is filling up quickly, so she suggested signing up as soon as possible.

The simulations are an “eye-opening experience,” Heinz said.

“Individuals who attend often comment on how challenging it is and how it helps them gain a greater understanding of the obstacles that people face,” Heinz added.

Read more at The Gazette. Written by Trish Mehaffey, April 3, 2024.

Iowa City art exhibit highlights creativity while incarcerated

Five drawings by Shawn Lurkens are displayed as part of the “Art from the Inside Out” art show in Iowa City, but — like Lurkens’ dealings with the criminal justice system — none of them are finished.

All of the artists whose art is displayed in the show — which runs through Feb. 16 at Public Space One in Iowa City — are people who have been or are still incarcerated in jails or prisons in Iowa. Lurkens spent about six months in jail in Linn County and is now living in a residential correctional facility.

Lurkens started drawing as a way to pass the time while he was in jail. He said it served as a form of meditation for him.

“It was the only way I could really relax while I was in jail,” Lurkens said. “I could get lost in it for hours.”

His pieces that are displayed in the free art show use symmetry and nature to explore abstract concepts like “Eternal Love” and “Spiritual Wisdom.” The pieces were originally drawn in black and white while he was in jail. He started to add color after he was released to the halfway house. There still is color missing, because Lurkens plans to finish his artwork after he finishes his stay at the residential facility.

Read more at The Gazette. Written by Emily Andersen.

Johnson County nonprofit to open reentry house for formerly incarcerated men

Inside Out, a Johnson County nonprofit organization that supports people returning to society after being incarcerated, will be opening a reentry house in Iowa City for low-income, formerly incarcerated men.

The house, at 719 Page St., was recently purchased and will be home to up to six men at a time. Residents will be able to stay in the house for up to two years, and Inside Out staff will be available to help them find jobs, community resources and new housing when the time comes. The rent will be $500 a month, and will include all utilities.

“There are a lot of folks that are trying to get out of prison, but they don’t have a place to go,” Michelle Heinz, executive director of Inside Out, said. “We’ve seen it over and over again, folks getting out and just not being able to find a place to live. And if you can’t find a roof over your head, then everything else just kind of tumbles around you.”

Read more at The Gazette. Written by Emily Andersen.

Iowa City nonprofit to open reentry house to help formerly incarcerated men

Inside Out Reentry Community is hoping this is just the first of several housing options they will be able to offer in the future.

To view this video, click here: KCRG News

Inside Out Reentry Community purchases first Iowa City home for formerly incarcerated persons

Affordable, furnished housing is now available to six formerly incarcerated Iowa City individuals thanks to Inside Out Reentry Community’s new purchase.

The nonprofit based in Iowa City dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated persons re-enter society has purchased its first “re-entry house” in Johnson County. This home is expected to be one of several established by the Inside Out Reentry Community, according to a press release.

The residence is located at 719 Page St. in Iowa City, a 3,561 square-foot dwelling with four bedrooms and four bathrooms according to real estate company Zillow. However, it is being renovated to be a six-bedroom home, Michelle Heinz, executive director, told the Press-Citizen.

Read more at the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Written by Paris Barraza.

March 2023 update

It’s not too late to purchase tickets for The Mystery Hour with Jeff Houghton at The Englert Theatre on Friday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m! This benefit in support of Inside Out Reentry Community will feature special guest Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague and music by James Tutson and the Rollback. Staff and participants of Inside Out will also be interviewed.


The Mystery Hour is a “late night” talk show hosted by four-time Emmy-winning comedian Jeff Houghton, which routinely sells out when performed live. VIP tickets include a post-show reception and space is limited!

The Mystery Hour is sponsored by:

Art From the Inside Out – Art Show Reception February 10

Inside Out’s recent art show Art From the Inside Out was an incredible event with an estimated 100 people at the reception. Some of the artists shared their inspiration with the attendees and there were many meaningful connections, conversations, and true appreciation of the artwork created by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated artists. Thank you to Artifactory for hosting this event!