Beyond the juvenile lifer population, our two agencies also began to discuss financial concerns with inmates in the transitional housing units (THUs) and through reentry service offices (RSOs), as well as residents of community corrections facilities who were no longer incarcerated. Their challenges with money represent a broad variety of issues, from never having had a banking account or credit card, to not understanding how credit history can affect the ability to find
employment and housing, to never having been exposed to the technology of financial services, including automatic teller machines (ATMs) and online banking.
Our agencies formalized a partnership through a Letter of Understanding in February 2017.
The Approach to Financial Education in Correctional Facilities
While DoBS has a vast repository of knowledge and resources spanning topics from consumer protection to financial basics to investor education, it was important to address Corrections’ specific needs, and tailor content to this unique audience. In addition, by bringing in Corrections’ stakeholders representing the spectrum from intake/entry, incarceration, transition to release, community corrections and parole, we developed an approach which focused on the unique needs Corrections expressed.
First, the content is targeted based on their time left until reentry. In short, those beginning a sentence need to understand how to monitor their credit while incarcerated, so they are not further “in the hole” when they get out and can make restitution payments. Those nearing reentry need to understand banking basics and budgeting.
Next, DoBS wanted to make sure that what was developed was scalable and sustainable, given limited resources. Also, understanding that one presentation couldn’t change a lifetime of habits, DoBS worked to create a holistic and tiered approach.
Taking a triage approach based on Corrections’ need, DoBS initially offered a seminar entitled “Credit and Banking Basics.” The seminar covers credit reports and scores, why credit is important, and the basics guidelines for how to use a bank or credit union. Demand from inmates also allowed DoBS to offer “Creating a Spending Plan” (aka budgeting), “Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Scams” (mostly for juvenile lifers), and surprisingly, “Investing 101.”
The education has been provided in-person in classroom and large-meeting settings, as well as webinars. All programs have been delivered by a DoBS outreach specialist.
The focus of these courses was on juvenile lifers, and those living in the THUs or accessing RSO’s. Some institutions invited DoBS present to the inmate general population and some had the agency present to the Veterans Service Units, being piloted at three state prisons.
DoBS also prepared a short DVD for the SCIs to run bi-weekly in their dayrooms. The DVD topics covered “Credit Reports and Scores,” “Banking Basics,” “Cybersecurity,” and “About the Department of Banking and Securities.”