Every year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from prison in the U.S., and there are an estimated 70 million to 100 million people with criminal records. Many now being released confront additional barriers as they reenter “outside” life in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, making their transition especially challenging. Many of these barriers for people seeking their “second chance” include securing safe housing and employment, as well as financial challenges that persist for individuals and their families long after incarceration, including access to the banking system. These challenges exacerbate and reinforce racial disparities in accessing financial products as Black and Hispanic people are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system.
Continuing our efforts to financially empower criminal justice-involved consumers and their families, the CFPB is releasing a as part of its Your Money, Your Goals financial empowerment resources. The guide is designed to help frontline staff address the unique financial challenges of individuals involved in the criminal justice system. This free resource is available both online – in downloadable, auto-fillable and auto-calculable format - and in print. The CFPB also has colorful, compact booklets that focus on the common financial stressors with simplified tools from the Your Money, Your Goals toolkit and are available in a format accessible to correctional facilities.
The CFPB revised this guide for staff working with individuals in jails and prisons, pretrial diversion programs like drug court, community reentry groups, and other social services groups. Over the past few years, we’ve heard from on-the-ground partners about the many financial struggles justice-involved people face both inside correctional facilities and when they return to their families and communities, including identity theft, criminal justice-related and consumer debt, and inaccuracies in credit and background reports.
The Focus on Reentry guide can help people understand and access financial products and services that best support their needs while incarcerated or when they return to their families and communities, including how to:
- Prepare their finances for incarceration, such as getting a credit freeze, securing a power of attorney, or managing debt while incarcerated
- Obtain identification documents such as social security cards to help ease the transition process
- Identify and prioritize payments for both criminal justice-related debt and consumer debt
- Choose a bank or credit union account and/or prepaid card
- Calculate their take home salary after deductions, particularly for those getting a paycheck for the first time
- Access credit reports, including inside correctional facilities, and monitor and address identity theft
- Understand the background screening process and individual rights when applying for jobs
People living with criminal records have unique, and often significant, financial challenges. This guide will better equip them to understand and take control over their financial lives.