Centers & Institute

A by-the-Numbers Look at Barriers to Success Facing Formerly Incarcerated Women

Spearheaded by Adler University’s Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, the Social Exclusion Simulation is an experiential learning tool that shows participants what it might actually feel like to re-enter society after being released from prison. Each participant takes on the role of an individual in that situation, with his or her own specific story and experience, and is given a set of tasks to complete during the three-hour session.

Upcoming simulations include:

  • Monday, Feb. 19, from 9 a.m. to noon
  • Thursday, April 12, from 5 to 8 p.m.

The exercises reveal what a book or film often cannot: The feeling of being socially excluded and facing monumental, systemic barriers. But what, exactly, are those barriers?

Let the numbers speak for themselves.

Incarcerated Women:

  • As the world’s leader in incarceration rates, there are 1,574,700 prisoners under the jurisdiction of State or Federal correction authorities in the U.S. (U.S. Bureau of Justice, 2013).
  • There were 113,605 women in state and federal prisons in 2012, an increase of more than 800 percent since 1980. The number of women in prison is increasing at nearly double the rate of men. (U.S. Bureau of Justice, 2013).
  • About one-third of women in prison are incarcerated for a drug related offense. In 2000, black women were incarcerated at six times the rate of white women (Sentencing Project, 2013).
  • In 2012, 2,749 women were serving prison sentences in Illinois state facilities. A total of 637,411 people from the state and federal prisons were released to the community (U.S. Bureau of Justice 2013).


  • In 2005, three in four former prisoners in 30 states were rearrested within five years of release (U.S. Bureau of Justice, 2014).


  • Eighty-three percent of released during 2001 were released to supervision with the condition that they report to a parole officer.
  • The number of people under supervision in Illinois has increased 60 percent – from 18,882 in 1990 to 30,199 in 2000 (Urban Institute, 2003).
  • Parole violations accounted for 27 percent of total state prison entries in 2012 (U.S. Bureau of Justice, 2013).

Safe and Affordable Housing:

  • The passage of the Housing Opportunity Program Extension Act allows public housing authorities the ability to request criminal conviction information from law enforcement to screen applicants for housing or tenants for eviction (Housing Opportunity Program Extension Act of 1996, PL1043-120, Sec. 9).


  • Since 29 states have no standards governing the relevance of conviction records of applicants for occupational license, employers may deny jobs to anyone with a criminal record regardless of individual history, circumstances or business necessity (Legal Action Center, 2004).

Social Service, Public Assistance and Food Stamps:

  • The 1996 Federal Welfare Law prohibits anyone convicted of a drug-related felony from receiving federally funded food stamps and cash assistance. An estimated 180,000 women in the 12 most impacted states are subjected to the lifetime ban. The racial disparities characterizing drug policy have led this ban to cause the most devastating effects on communities of color (Legal Action Center, 2004, Sentencing Project, 2013)

Social Exclusion Simulation attendance is free but an RSVP is required due to the nature of the program and limited number of participants. To register, please email Misty Brown at All simulations take place at Adler University, 17 N. Dearborn St.