Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bank Accounts For Released Prisoners

Giving a released prisoner a bank account with a debit card in the city he is being released to is an excellent idea, simple but good, as reported by the Guardian; with the revelation that it began at a privately run prison!

In the college-based criminal rehabilitation program I developed and managed from 1975 to 1978, we created a social survival skills class, for college credit, that addressed these type of issues (opening a bank account, renting an apartment, interviewing, dating etiquette, parenting, etc.).

An excerpt.

“There are times when even though something stares you in the face, you cannot see it. So it was when I heard of the scheme, by the Co-operative bank, to supply bank accounts to serving prisoners. That was in 2006 and although I thought it a good idea (I am for anything that "normalises" prisoners) I had no idea how effective it would be in reducing reoffending rates.

“The project started at Forest Bank, a private jail in Manchester, after a member of staff realised the problems prisoners without a bank account faced when they were discharged and approached the Co-op bank seeking their help. Within a year, 500 inmates had opened accounts and 193 of them were tracked on release and a report on their progress was published by the Research Unit for Financial Inclusion at John Moores University, Liverpool.

“The report that 37% of those monitored had reoffended, compared to the national reoffending rate of about 76%, a 50% decrease. Massively promising, but would those figures hold up, or were they a flash in the pan? The Co-op and the university have now published more up-to-date figures and those leaving jail with bank accounts are still half as likely to reoffend as those without.

“Of those on the pilot, leaving prison with a bank account, almost 80% said they had never had one before. Interviewing some of them provided some revealing responses. "Having an account gave me a sense of self-respect, made me feel part of society," said Jonathan. "It [the account] opened many doors and gave me a sense of identity," said another. "All I knew about was the giro," said another, "and I used to go in and draw it out. Knew nothing about banks."